New material could extract hydrogen from water with sunlight

Photostable titanium oxide-based nanofiliment for photocatalytic hydrogen production. Credit: Drexel University

Scientists have been hunting for better ways to use hydrogen as a clean source of energy.

A group from Drexel University’s College of Engineering has made a big breakthrough.

They’ve developed a special material that uses sunlight to extract hydrogen from water.

This might sound complex, but let’s break it down!

What exactly is hydrogen energy? Hydrogen is an element that we can use as a source of clean energy, similar to how we use gas or electricity.

The catch is that hydrogen is often locked up in other substances, like water, and we need to separate it out. The standard way to do this produces greenhouse gases, which are harmful to our environment.

So, the researchers at Drexel University came up with a new method. They created a material out of titanium oxide (the stuff used in sunscreen and paints) that can pull out hydrogen from water using only sunlight!

This process is known as photocatalysis. Until now, the materials used for this process weren’t efficient enough and didn’t last long.

However, this new material developed by Dr. Michel Barsoum and Dr. Hussein O. Badr at Drexel University is different.

The team discovered that thin, fibrous strands of titanium oxide could not only pull hydrogen from water but could do so for months at a time when exposed to sunlight. In fact, these titanium oxide strands outperformed other materials that are closer to commercial use.

One of the versions of their material, made from a substance called binary titanium carbide, was ten times better at using sunlight to produce hydrogen than the next best thing! It also stayed active for more than 180 days.

That’s like a catalyst that keeps working through an entire summer vacation!

The team is super excited about the potential of this discovery. They are hoping to better understand why their material is so efficient, and they’re even starting a green hydrogen startup around the technology. They believe it could open the door to a future powered by green hydrogen, a cleaner and more sustainable alternative to fossil fuels.

On top of that, the researchers are looking at other uses for their titanium oxide strands. They could be helpful in things like batteries, solar cells, water cleaning, and even medical treatments!

So, next time you see the sunlight, think of the endless potential it holds – not just for a day at the beach, but for a cleaner and greener future!

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