January 27, 2023

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Fuel the future from nothing. A hydrogen generator that simulates photosynthesis could change the world

It is enough to expose it to the sun, and hydrogen will form “by itself”. How does the new hydrogen generator work?

scientists who The job Described in a journal publication Advanced materials, developed a generator that extracted moisture from the air under the influence of sunlight and released hydrogen gas. This could still be used as a renewable fuel, but it won’t happen anytime soon. The generator itself is still under development and it will take ten years before this technology becomes commercially available.

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In developing it, the specialists were inspired by photosynthesis, a natural process in which plants provide themselves with nutrients thanks to sunlight, carbon dioxide and water drawn from the environment. In an artificial variation of this mechanism, scientists previously developed a cell that mimics photosynthesis, generating hydrogen from liquid water and sunlight.

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However, this approach only worked on a small scale, but it was enough to switch from a liquid water approach to moisture in the air to create these wonderful generators. To this end, a team of scientists developed transparent fiberglass electrodes for gas diffusion and coated them with a semiconductor material capable of capturing and processing sunlight. This is how a real artificial leaf was created, which absorbs water from the air and generates gaseous hydrogen, which can then be extracted.

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Although it all sounds as simple as the technology is about to happen, in practice, researchers have believed it needs improvement for more than a decade. The initial demonstration showed that the efficiency of the generator was very low (less than 1%), but this poor result did not discourage the scientists. They will continue to improve the production stages of the device and try to increase its efficiency. They also want support from the European Union to implement a demonstration device on a larger scale.