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Hybrid nanomaterial extracts hydrogen fuel from seawater

Science & Environment

Researchers have created a hybrid extractor that eliminates the burden of heightened electricity costs.

A researcher at the University of Central Florida has created a new hybrid nanomaterial that harnesses solar energy, and uses it to generate hydrogen from seawater more cheaply and efficiently than current materials. The cost of electricity associated with older models is high, so a hybrid alternative is likely to become more popular. The breakthrough could lead to a new source of the clean-burning fuel, easing the demand for fossil fuels and boosting the economy of Florida, where there are copious amounts of sunshine and seawater.

Researcher Yang Yang’s discovery was made using a photocatalyst, which is a material that spurs a chemical reaction using energy from light. Because photocatalysts are not durable enough to hands the biomass and corrosive salt in seawater, Yang and his research team have developed a new catalyst that can harvest a much broader spectrum of light than other materials and stand up to the harsh conditions found in seawater. Yang developed a method of fabricating a photocatalyst composed of a hybrid material. Tiny nanocavities were chemically etched onto the surface of an ultrathin film of titanium dioxide, the most common photocatalyst. Those nanocavity indentations were coated with nanoflakes of molybdenum disulfide, a two-dimensional material with the thickness of a single atom.

Typical catalysts are able to convert only a limited bandwidth of light to energy. With its new material, Yang’s team is able to significantly boost the bandwidth of light that can be harvested. By controlling the density of sulfur vacancy within the nanoflakes, they can produce energy from ultraviolet-visible to near-infrared light wavelengths, making it at least twice as efficient as current photocatalysts.

Eco-friendly and sustainable options are proving more popular than ever, with businesses keen to create and adopt new discoveries. The creation of a trash can for the ocean and plans to use drone submarines to grow kelp for biofuel in moving ocean farms being two similar examples to UCF’s findings. How could more nature-friendly biofuels impact your business operations?

Website: www.ucf.edu

Contact: www.ucf.edu/contact

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