How sunshine, seawater and titanium dioxide can create clean hydrogen fuel

Researchers at the University of Central Florida (UCF) are developing a new method to cost-effectively extract hydrogen from seawater.


Hydrogen fuel cells offer huge potential for reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. However, existing methods of hydrogen extraction require a lot of energy, making them prohibitively expensive.


Additionally, while seawater may be abundant, its biomass and corrosive properties make it incredibly challenging to work with. To date, hydrogen extraction has therefore tended to use purified water, further adding to the costs.


The revolutionary new method – tested in lab conditions – chemically etches tiny cavities onto a thin layer of titanium dioxide before adding tiny flakes of molybdenum disulphide. The result is a hybrid photocatalyst capable of combining seawater and sunlight to generate hydrogen.


“We’ve opened a new window to splitting real water – not just purified water – in a lab,” says Professor Yang, a senior researcher at UCF with more than a decade’s experience in hydrogen production.


The team at UCF is now looking at whether the technique can be scaled up and used to generate fuel from solar energy outside of test conditions.


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