A team of scientists has developed a method to obtain hydrogen with water and sunlight, a milestone for the use of this gas as an energy vector. Obtaining hydrogen with water is one of the great ambitions of experts who explore the energy possibilities of this gas. Electrolysis, the separation of the molecule from water, is the preferred route. For being more environmentally sustainable. Although from an economic point of view, methane reforming is usually the preferred production method.
What a prototype arises from Rice University, Texas, is a kind of evolution of electrolysis. The chemical reaction process is the same. Hydrogen and oxygen atoms are separated. But it is also done with the direct help of sunlight.
The device these scientists have created consists of perovskite electrodes and solar panels, considered more effective than silicon. This module is inserted into the auga and is capable of converting energy from sunlight to hydrogen with an efficiency of up to 6.7%.
In reality, what happens is that solar panels absorb energy from the sun. This is converted into electricity, which drives the electrochemical reaction to generate hydrogen. Catalytic electrodes are responsible for separating oxygen from hydrogen.
To protect solar panels from water, they have been covered with a polymer that lets sunlight through. This ensures that perovskite continues to collect energy from the sun.
Researchers have not only thought about extracting hydrogen. Oxygen could also be obtained and destined for commercial use. Although the main objective is energy storage and this is only achieved with hydrogen gas under pressure.
The hydrogen economy, the one that bases its operation on the use of fuel cells, needs significant advances to start. According to this scheme, it is expected that not only cars will be based on gas under pressure, but also other transport and some industries. However, there is still a long way to go to make hydrogen a viable alternative to fossil fuels.
Without a doubt, one of the biggest obstacles is the inability to achieve efficient electrolysis. Only through this method and only when it receives the necessary energy contribution from renewable energies can it be considered a clean process. Meanwhile, hydrocarbon reform offers only a partially valid solution.