by Chelsea Gohd
Previously, it has been cost-intensive,
inefficient, and harmful to the environment to
create hydrogen fuel.
But a new technique developed at the University
of Central Florida efficiently creates hydrogen
fuel from seawater.
There exists a wide range of
sources support our
increasingly energy-intensive lives as fossil fuels are ultimately
phased out. renewable energy
One of these new
potential sources of energy is as promising as it is strange.
Central Florida (UCF) researcher and assistant professor Yang
that uses the
power of an existing green energy source, solar energy, to turn
seawater into hydrogen fuel. has developed a breakthrough hybrid nanomaterial
A faculty member of
both the NanoScience Technology Center and the Department of
Materials Science and Engineering at UCF, Yang's breakthrough has
been 10 years in the making.
are fairly costly and not all that
efficient - a sharp contrast to Yang's new method. used to create hydrogen fuel
The success is
solar hydrogen splitting is something that many
researchers, including Yang, have been working tirelessly towards
"We've opened a
new window to splitting real water, not just purified water in a
lab," Yang said. "This really works well in seawater."
To create hydrogen
fuel, however, you need a
- a material that triggers a
chemical reaction when exposed to light. photocatalyst
But considering the
corrosive and difficult nature of seawater, Yang needed a
photocatalyst that was uniquely durable, which is where the hybrid
nanomaterial came in.
began with an ultrathin sheet of
(the most common photocatalyst), into which nanocavities were carved. titanium dioxide
, a 2D material as thick as a single atom, then
coated these cavities. molybdenum disulfide
This material is
nearly twice as effective as most other photocatalysts because
instead of converting a limited range of light into energy, it can
turn ultraviolet-visible to near-infrared light wavelengths into
energy - a much wider range.
University of Central Florida
Hydrogen fuel, like
. has its pros and cons
On the positive
, a drastic difference from what
is produced by fossil fuels. only emissions are water vapor
In terms of vehicles, hydrogen fuel
cells have about double the fuel economy of traditional gasoline. Additionally - and
most obviously - hydrogen fuel is renewable and can be created in
However, until now
the process to create hydrogen fuel has been considerably expensive,
and there is
to support its use.
a lack of existing infrastructure
issue with hydrogen fuel is that current methods for creating it are
not only inefficient and costly, they often use nonrenewable natural
But this process
has the potential to eliminate many of the issues presented by the
use of hydrogen fuel.
nanomaterial is used on a larger-scale, the process could help
generate a substantial amount of green energy, replacing fossil
fuels and pushing us forward in the fight against climate change.
In the immediate,
it could also help bolster Florida's economy:
sea water and the state's current efforts to recover from
the devastation of Hurricane Irma, such a boost would no
doubt be welcomed.