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Biofuels researchers tweak titanium dioxide for pollution free way to get hydrogen for fuel cells

Published on February 3rd, 2011 | by Tina Casey

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Little White Powder Gives a Big Lift to Hydrogen Fuel Cells

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February 3rd, 2011 by  

researchers tweak titanium dioxide for pollution free way to get hydrogen for fuel cellsHydrogen fuel cells offer a zero-emission way to  power vehicles, but until now there’s been at least one obvious catch: getting the hydrogen requires energy, and lots of it. Now researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have found a way around it, by developing a pollution-free way to extract hydrogen from water. The process uses “disordered” nanocrystals of titanium dioxide to act as a high efficiency catalyst, which collects solar energy for the extraction process.

Titanium Dioxide and Solar Energy

Titanium dioxide is a common substance best known as a white pigment. Regular readers of CleanTechnica may recall it from a post a while back, in which we discussed putting to use its photocatalytic properties for reducing greenhouse gas pollution (photocatalysis is a chemical reaction accelerated by light). The Berkeley researchers found that they could increase the light absorption efficiency of titanium dioxide nanocrystals by “jumbling’ their surface layer. A visual indication of the improvement is a color change in the nanocrystals, from white to black.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells on a Roll

The research still needs to clear some more hurdles before it can develop into a commercially viable operation, but in the meantime hydrogen fuel cells are pushing forward, with considerable support from the federal government.

Image: White powder by k0a1a.net on flickr.com.

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About the Author

Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



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