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Biofuels

Little White Powder Gives a Big Lift to Hydrogen Fuel Cells

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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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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