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January 19, 2023

Solar Powered Sustainable Hydrogen

Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed a renewable approach to producing hydrogen fuel using a novel semiconductor catalyst, concentrated natural sunlight and fresh or salt water.

Credit: U.S. National Science Foundation

Solar Powered Sustainable Hydrogen

Is there a practical future for alternative fuel sources? Can we split the elements of water to create a supply of hydrogen without using fossil fuels? We'll explore the future of hydrogen fuel in the U.S. National Science Foundation's "Discovery Files."

Between rising costs and the increasing environmental effects of fossil fuel usage, scientists and engineers around the world are working on alternative solutions. Hydrogen is seen by many as a path to carbon neutrality.

The most common way hydrogen fuel is produced today uses the fossil fuel Methane. Supported in part by NSF, researchers at the University of Michigan are developing a practical, renewable approach to producing hydrogen fuel.

In this method, a novel semiconductor catalyst absorbs photons of concentrated natural sunlight and uses the resulting free electrons to split water into oxygen and hydrogen molecules using fresh or salt water at an efficiency more than double that of previous methods of its kind.

This novel catalyst actually becomes more efficient with use. The technology shows promise for scaling to commercially viable levels, to provide clean hydrogen for transportation fuels, electrical energy, or for heating and cooling, while minimizing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting our Nation's energy security.

To hear more engineering and science news, including the researchers making it, subscribe to "NSF's Discovery Files" podcast.

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