From: California Institute of Technology
Published March 14, 2017 02:55 PM

New Materials Could Turn Water into the Fuel of the Future

Researchers at Caltech and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have—in just two years—nearly doubled the number of materials known to have potential for use in solar fuels.

They did so by developing a process that promises to speed the discovery of commercially viable solar fuels that could replace coal, oil, and other fossil fuels.

Solar fuels, a dream of clean-energy research, are created using only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide (CO2). Researchers are exploring a range of target fuels, from hydrogen gas to liquid hydrocarbons, but producing any of these fuels involves splitting water.

Each water molecule comprises an oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms. The hydrogen atoms are extracted and then can be reunited to create highly flammable hydrogen gas or combined with CO2 to create hydrocarbon fuels, creating a plentiful and renewable energy source. The problem, however, is that water molecules do not simply break down when sunlight shines on them—if they did, the oceans would not cover most of the planet. They need a little help from a solar-powered catalyst.

Read more at California Institute of Technology

Image: Scientists at JCAP create new materials by spraying combinations of elements onto thin plates.

Image Credits: Caltech

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