A team of scientists from the University of Rochester has a tough mission creating a hydrogen fuel cell that not only burns cleanly but the fuel itself has to be created from clean sources. They have developed a process that uses artificial photosynthesis and nanotubes to finalize this project.
A similar process has already been developed some time ago using sunlight to split hydrogen from water, but the costs are tremendous. Without using fossil fuels it’s quite difficult to generate hydrogen.
The team formed by Professors Richard Eisenberg and Kara Bren from the Department of Chemistry, Associate Professors of Chemistry Todd Krauss and Patrick Holland, has been awarded with $1,7 million for this project. In order to closely control each step, they proposed dividing the nanoscale process into three separate modules, this way isolating the process of gathering the sunlight from the process of generating hydrogen.
The first module is able to absorb sunlight with the help of a molecule called chromophore. This molecule can generate electrons and can be found in plants which use it in the photosynthesis process.
A membrane of carbon nanotubes which acts as a molecular wire transporting the electrons away from the chromophores represents the second module. The second module has the role to channel the electrons, created in the first module, towards the third module.
The third module is made from catalysts and water. Catalysts are able to extract, with the help of the electrons, the hydrogen from water. The hydrogen can then be used in fuel cells in cars, homes, or hopefully future power plants.
“If we succeed, we may be able to not only help create a fuel that burns cleanly, but the creation of the fuel itself may be clean” said Kara Bren about the project. The market release is still to come but with hard work come good results. We will probably talk more about the topic in the near future.