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Cheap Hydrogen Fuel Closer To Reality

Update Date: Feb 24, 2014 10:11 AM EST

The sun is capable of driving reactions to make chemical fuels like hydrogen which can be used to power vehicles and other equipments, according to a new research. 

Hydrogen has potential to power passenger cars as it is an environmentally friendly fuel. However there are major challenges to overcome before bringing it in the public use. 

In the new research, researchers have used cheap and oxide-based materials that can split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. The process utilizes the solar energy with an impressive solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency of 1.7 percent. 

"In order to make commercially viable devices for solar fuel production, the material and the processing costs should be reduced significantly while achieving a high solar-to-fuel conversion efficiency," said Kyoung-Shin Choi, a chemistry professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the press release

The efficiency obtained in the process is the highest reported for any oxide-based photo-electrode system. 

"Without fancy equipment, high temperature or high pressure, we made a nanoporous semiconductor of very tiny particles that have a high surface area," added Choi, whose work is supported by the National Science Foundation. "More surface area means more contact area with water, and, therefore, more efficient water splitting."

Although there are many research that are working on the photoelectric semiconductors, the semiconductor-catalyst junction relatively gets little attention. 

"The problem is, in the end you have to put them together," she added in the press release. "Even if you have the best semiconductor in the world and the best catalyst in the world, their overall efficiency can be limited by the semiconductor-catalyst interface."

The study has been published in the journal Science.

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