Theoretically, extracting hydrogen from seawater to power the fuel cells is possible but to do this in practice, immense electricity is required. This makes the overall procedure very costly.
Now Yang Yang, a researcher from UCF has developed a new hybrid nano-material which uses solar energy to generate hydrogen from seawater. This reduces the overall cost of the process and makes it more efficient.
Yang as a professor with a joint venture of University of Central Florida Nan science Technology Centre and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering is working on the project of solar hydrogen extracting technology for nearly a decade.
As per his report, this newly developed technology can carve a new path for clean energy in a cost-effective way in a place like Florida where solar energy and seawater is abundant. This will even give a boost to the economic growth.
Initially, Yang has used solar power to extract hydrogen from pure water. In this process, he has used a photocatalyst material that starts a chemical reaction by using the light energy. The task was much easier for pure water.
This is because the catalyst is not durable in the biomass and harsh and corrosive salt present in seawater. So he and his team developed a new kind of catalyst which cannot only react in a much larger spectrum of light but also can sustain the rough condition of seawater.
Splitting Sea Water is possible now
Yang has reported this in the Journal of Energy & Environmental Science. He has termed this project as a path-breaking one where they are able to split natural sea water not purified water in any laboratory.
The most common photocatalyst is titanium dioxide. The team has brought a new concept of making a hybrid photocatalyst. They have small nanocavities which are chemically latched with the ultra-thin film plate of titanium dioxide.
The nano-cavities are coated with nanoflakes of molybdenum disulfide which is a 2D material with the same thickness of an atom. A common catalyst can only convert a limited bandwidth of light into energy, while this new hybrid catalyst has a wide range.
By controlling the sulfur vacancy Yang’s team is able to boost wide spectrum, it is able to produce energy from ultraviolet range to almost infrared range. So it’s almost twice efficient than any common photocatalyst.
As per the researcher fabricating the photocatalyst is the easiest step of the project. They are now aiming to fabricate new catalyst to split hydrogen even from the wastewater.