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Nanotech aids green hydrogen production

British company splits water

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A UK company has developed a nano-crystalline material that will dramatically improve the production of hydrogen by using solar energy to split water more efficiently into its elemental parts.

Hydrogen Solar says its efficiency rate is now at eight per cent - just two per cent shy of the 10 per cent benchmark accepted for commercial production. Company CEO Dr. David Auty says he expects to commercialise the technology within a year.

Speaking to The Register, Dr. Auty explained how the Tandem Cell technology works.

There are two photocatalytic cells arranged in series. The front cell is coated with a nano-crystaline film which absorbs high energy (ultraviolet and blue) light.

The lower energy light (green and red wavelengths) passes through the front cell and into the second. Here, the light excites the electrons in this cell's coating which sets up an electrical potential.

Now there is a potential difference between the two cells allowing current to flow. This electricity splits the water molecules in an electrolyte, producing hydrogen.

"The coatings we have put down have features on a scale of 30-50nm," he says. "But the films are between 1000nm and 3000nm thick, with lots of features throughout the thickness. The material is mesoporous, which means there is a huge surface area available for activation."

Dr. Auty explained that there the properties of the materials used change in subtle ways at the nano scale. "We think this may be helping us, too," he said.

Hydrogen Solar is discussing commercial projects with international companies is both car manufacturing and construction industries. ®

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