Researchers tap into solar energy to produce hydrogen fuel

March 3, 2014 0 By Alicia Moore

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University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers find way to efficiently produce hydrogen using sunlight

Hydrogen Fuel and Solar EnergyResearchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found a way to produce hydrogen fuel in an efficient and cost effective manner. Low-cost hydrogen production has been a major priority for those interested in renewable energy and clean transportation. Much of the global auto industry has begun to focus on using fuel cells for future vehicles. In order for these vehicles to be considered commercially successful there must be a comprehensive hydrogen infrastructure in place. The infrastructure itself will need cost effective ways to produce hydrogen in order to become viable.

Team uses inexpensive materials to achieve 1.7% conversion efficiency

A team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have tapped into solar power as a way to produce hydrogen. The team has begun using solar energy to extract hydrogen from water, using two oxide-based materials that make this process possible. Using a low-cost nanoporous semiconductor, the team was able to reach a solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency of 1.7%, which is the highest recorded conversion efficiency currently.

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Clean Energy Quotes To Remember - “For example, a breakthrough in better batteries could supplant hydrogen. Better solar cells could replace or win out in this race to the fuel of the future. Those, I see, as the three big competitors: hydrogen, solar cells and then better batteries.”

- Bob Inglis, Politician

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Solar energy has become a popular way to power efficient and cost effective hydrogen production

Using solar power to produce hydrogen is not a new idea. There have been many research projects around the world that have made use of sunlight to produce hydrogen fuel. There have been research teams that have worked to mimic photosynthesis, using artificial leaves to produce hydrogen gas. Using solar energy to produce hydrogen is considered both efficient and cost effective because this form of production is not based on the use of fossil-fuels.

Without a working infrastructure in place, hydrogen-powered vehicles may not find the success they are after

It may be years before the research team is able to bring their hydrogen production method to the market, but it could be a promising step toward making a hydrogen infrastructure more effective. Most major automakers have plans to begin releasing hydrogen-powered vehicles into the market beginning in 2015. Without an infrastructure in place, these vehicles will not likely find a strong amount of support from consumers interested in clean transportation.