Splitting the sea: Turning ocean water into hydrogen fuel

Jun 12, 2013
ACES researchers with the flexible water splitting polymer. From left: Professor Gerry Swiegers, Professor David Officer, Associate Professor Jun Chen, Professor Gordon Wallace and Dr Pawel Wagner.

(Phys.org) —University of Wollongong scientists have developed a novel way to turn sea water into hydrogen, for a sustainable and clean fuel source.

Using this method, as little as five litres of sea water per day would produce enough hydrogen to power an average-sized home and an electric car for one day.

The research team at UOW's Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) have developed a light-assisted catalyst that requires less energy input to activate , which is the first step in splitting water to produce .

A major limitation with current technologies is that the oxidation process needs a higher energy input, which rules out using abundant sea water because it produces poisonous .

The research team, led by Associate Professor Jun Chen and Professor Gerry Swiegers, have produced an artificial chlorophyll on a conductive plastic film that acts as a catalyst to begin .

The results were recently published in the journal Chemical Science.

Lead author, Associate Professor Jun Chen, said the would mean it could be used in a wider range of applications and it is more easily manufactured than metal semiconductors.

"The system we designed, including the materials, gives us the opportunity to design various devices and applications using sea water as a water-splitting source.

"The flexible nature of the material also provides the possibility to build portable hydrogen-producing devices."

The development brings UOW's energy research a step closer to creating an artificial leaf-like device that can efficiently produce hydrogen.

ACES Executive Research Director Professor Gordon Wallace said: "In today's world the discovery of high performance materials is not enough".

"This must be coupled with innovative fabrication to provide practical high-performance devices and this work is an excellent example of that," he said.

Explore further: Why Captain America's shield is basically a star-spangled supercapacitor

More information: pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2013/SC/c3sc50812a

Related Stories

Researchers harness nature to produce the fuel of the future

Jan 30, 2013

Hydrogen has tremendous potential as an eco-friendly fuel, but it is expensive to produce. Now researchers at Princeton University and Rutgers University have moved a step closer to harnessing nature to produce hydrogen for ...

Secrets of the first practical artificial leaf

May 09, 2012

A detailed description of development of the first practical artificial leaf — a milestone in the drive for sustainable energy that mimics the process, photosynthesis, that green plants use to convert ...

Improving performance of a solar fuel catalyst

Oct 04, 2012

(Phys.org)—Hydrogen gas that is created using solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen has the potential to be a cost-effective fuel source if the efficiency of the catalysts used in the water-splitting ...

Recommended for you

A greener source of polyester—cork trees

6 hours ago

On the scale of earth-friendly materials, you'd be hard pressed to find two that are farther apart than polyester (not at all) and cork (very). In an unexpected twist, however, scientists are figuring out ...

A beautiful, peculiar molecule

9 hours ago

"Carbon is peculiar," said Nobel laureate Sir Harold Kroto. "More peculiar than you think." He was speaking to a standing-room-only audience that filled the Raytheon Amphitheater on Monday afternoon for the ...

Metals go from strength to strength

Apr 15, 2014

To the human hand, metal feels hard, but at the nanoscale it is surprisingly malleable. Push a lump of metal with brute force through a right-angle mould or die, and while it might look much the same to the ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Breakthrough points to new drugs from nature

Researchers at Griffith University's Eskitis Institute have developed a new technique for discovering natural compounds which could form the basis of novel therapeutic drugs.

A greener source of polyester—cork trees

On the scale of earth-friendly materials, you'd be hard pressed to find two that are farther apart than polyester (not at all) and cork (very). In an unexpected twist, however, scientists are figuring out ...

A beautiful, peculiar molecule

"Carbon is peculiar," said Nobel laureate Sir Harold Kroto. "More peculiar than you think." He was speaking to a standing-room-only audience that filled the Raytheon Amphitheater on Monday afternoon for the ...

Down's chromosome cause genome-wide disruption

The extra copy of Chromosome 21 that causes Down's syndrome throws a spanner into the workings of all the other chromosomes as well, said a study published Wednesday that surprised its authors.

IBM posts lower 1Q earnings amid hardware slump

IBM's first-quarter earnings fell and revenue came in below Wall Street's expectations amid an ongoing decline in its hardware business, one that was exasperated by weaker demand in China and emerging markets.