Hydrogen would be an excellent clean energy source, were it not for the fact that it costs a tremendous amount of energy to produce and is thus quite expensive. Researchers have been looking for ways to cheaply and sustainably produce hydrogen for decades and now researchers from the University of Adelaide have managed to do just that.
The key to their method are tiny metallic particles of only about one-quarter of a nanometre in size or less than the size of ten atoms. These particles act as highly efficient catalysts that greatly reduce the required energy to split water in hydrogen and oxygen. In fact, they reduce the required energy to such an extent that solar radiation is sufficient as an energy source.
But it does not stop there. The metallic clusters they have produced can also be used as catalysts in other reactions like converting carbon dioxide into methane or methanol with water.
This all almost sounds too good to be true and in fact it is, for now. The researchers have managed to make the catalysis work at a molecular level, but have yet to demonstrate its effectiveness on a macroscopic scale. But that’s not all. Fresh water is becoming a scarcer resource by the day. If this is to truly become an invaluable tool in aiding the global effort of converting solar energy into portable chemical energy, it has to work with seawater as well.
© Jorn van Dooren | www.bitsofscience.org