Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hydrogen production – nanotechnology boost

Hydrogen is often being mentioned as one of the top energy sources in years to come, and now in the first-ever experiment of its kind scientists have proved that clean energy hydrogen can be generated from water splitting by using very small metal particles that are exposed to sunlight.

Alexander Orlov, an Assistant Professor of Materials Science & Engineering at Stony Brook University, and his colleagues from Stony Brook and Brookhaven National Laboratory, have discovered that the use of tiny gold particles (smaller than one nanometer) resulted in greater hydrogen production than this was the case with other catalysts they tested. When the size of metal particles is reduced to dimensions below one nanometer, there is a gigantic increase in the ability of these particles to facilitate hydrogen production from water using solar light. Researchers have calculated there is an approximately 35 times increase in hydrogen evolution as compared to when ordinary materials were used. These extraordinary results originate from some interesting anomalies in electronic properties of these small particles. Of course, there is still a long journey ahead prior to fully utilize these small scale particles in form of global scale clean energy production.

This experiment is important because it represents the first ever demonstration of the remarkable potential of very small metal nanoparticles that are actually able to make fuel from water. The potential of nanotechnology is almost limitless and scientists are already describing nanotechnology as the new scientific wonder that will set tone for future discoveries.

New clean energy sources are needed in order to decrease our heavy dependence on fossil fuels and help improve the global environmental condition of our planet. We simply have to explore various energy options in order to boost our future energy security. Hydrogen as the source of clean energy could also provide numerous environmental and energy efficiency benefits. The main advantage of hydrogen is the fact that its combustion product is water, and not greenhouse gas emissions like this is the case with fossil fuels. Science must therefore seek for new materials, which can help to produce hydrogen from sustainable sources.

The chemists have already demonstrated that hydrogen can be efficiently stored in nanoparticles so the nanotechnology holds the great promise for future utilization of hydrogen in global energy market. The effectiveness of hydrogen storage (storing hydrogen gas in a compact and cost-effective way) will play major role in determining whether hydrogen will become one of the top energy sources in future or not.

The current research work looks very promising. Hydrogen is among the most abundant elements and is able to produce energy through chemical reactions. The potential is certainly there, it's up to science to do the rest.

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