Researchers have developed a
solar paint that can absorb water vapour and split it to generate hydrogen –
the cleanest source of energy.
The paint contains a newly
developed compound that acts like silica gel, which is used in sachets to
absorb moisture and keep food, medicines and electronics fresh and dry.
Sun with sunspots and limb darkening as seen in visible light with solar filter. By Geoff Elston [CC BY 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
But unlike silica gel, the new
material, synthetic molybdenum-sulphide, also acts as a semi-conductor and
catalyses the splitting of water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen.
Lead researcher Dr Torben
Daeneke, from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, said: “We found
that mixing the compound with titanium oxide particles leads to a
sunlight-absorbing paint that produces hydrogen fuel from solar energy and
moist air.
“Titanium oxide is the
white pigment that is already commonly used in wall paint, meaning that the
simple addition of the new material can convert a brick wall into energy
harvesting and fuel production real estate.
“Our new development has
a big range of advantages,” he said. “There’s no need for clean or
filtered water to feed the system. Any place that has water vapour in the air,
even remote areas far from water, can produce fuel.”
His colleague, Distinguished
Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh, said hydrogen was the cleanest source of
energy and could be used in fuel cells as well as conventional combustion
engines as an alternative to fossil fuels.
“This system can also be
used in very dry but hot climates near oceans. The sea water is evaporated by
the hot sunlight and the vapour can then be absorbed to produce fuel.
“This is an extraordinary
concept – making fuel from the sun and water vapour in the air.”
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