Stanford overcomes major hurdle to solarpowered hydrogen production

first_imgThe holy grail of energy production is a totally clean burning fuel that can be produced without waste. We do have such a fuel in hydrogen, but producing it in a clean and efficient way has always been a stumbling block to it ever becoming an alternative to the fuels we use today.Hydrogen can be produced by a method known as water splitting. This simply involves applying a voltage to two electrodes submerged in water (electrolysis). The result is a reaction that “splits” the water into oxygen and hydrogen which can then be stored as a fuel and later used to produce electricity.The downside to water splitting when your energy source is heat (high-temperature electrolysis) is the amount of power required to extract a high amount of hydrogen from the water in the first place. Typically you need temperatures of between 800 and 1,200 degrees Celsius for water splitting to occur. As you can imagine, generating such temperatures uses a lot of energy which nullifies the process as an efficient way to produce more power. However, if the source of energy comes from focusing solar power you have a completely clean system using a base fuel (water) that is abundant.The problem with that setup is the silicon electrode required for high temerature, solar-powered splitting erodes very quickly when submerged in water. But scientists at Stanford University believe they have now come up with a solution to that problem.What they did was to coat the silicon electrode in titanium dioxide which is transparent and conducts electricity well. At the same time it stops the silicon coming into contact with the water and therefore stops it eroding.Tests carried out showed no effects of erosion for over 8 hours with the coating applied. Without the coating the silicon electrode broke down in around 30 minutes.The end result of this research is a solar-powered water splitting system that, if scalable, bodes well for the future of clean energy production.Read more at Physorglast_img read more

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