Nanotechnology Uses Sun to Separate Hydrogen from Water

Nano Forest technology image

(Best Syndication News) Scientists from the University of California, San Diego, have developed a more efficient way to separate hydrogen from water using nanotechnology.

Engineers have created tiny forests of nanowires that use solar energy to create clean hydrogen fuel. Deli Wang, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering says that current technology uses fossil fuels to convert/separate hydrogen. The new method will not produce any greenhouse gases.

Their "3D branched nanowire array" uses a process called photoelectrochemical water-splitting to produce hydrogen gas. The arrays are made of zinc-oxide and silicon which are cheap abundant elements.

Why use nanowire forests? Wang says there are two reasons. The first reason is because forests tend to absorb solar energy while flat deserts and oceans tend to reflect it. When the light gets trapped in the forest the energy is used to separate the water into its constituents, hydrogen and oxygen. The technology is similar to a retinal photoreceptor cells in the human eye.

Wang said the second reason is the efficiency of splitting water. When we boil water in a pan it takes a long time to build up a bubble on the bottom. Their wire forest process using vertical nanotree structures is more efficient than the current planar technology. Small hydrogen bubbles are created on the nanotrees and collected for storage or use.

The research was published in the journal Nanoscale

By: Julie Marcus
Science Reporter

Image: The image shows how nanowire forests trap light more efficiently than planar technology and create small bubbles that float to the surface for collection.

Nano Forest technology image

Nano Forest technology image

Above: Electronic microscopic image of a nanoforest, or "3-D branched nanowire array." (Green tint added for contrast.)

Image Courtesy of Wang Research Group, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

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