Scientists say a new breakthrough in artificial photosynthesis could make the most annoying part of creating hydrogen a lot easier.

Currently, separating hydrogen from oxygen in water takes electricity — more electricity than the resulting hydrogen could create. So, unless this electricity is coming from a solar array or wind energy, it’s not efficient enough to use on a large scale.

Scientists have recently found a possible solution to this: viruses, algae and an extremely long and dry research paper which lies behind a paywall.

Luckily, someone distilled the science of artificial photosynthesis for we the masses.

Using sunlight rather than electricity to make hydrogen from water could greatly improve the efficiency of the process. Hydrogen can then be stored and used to generate electricity using a fuel cell, or burned as fuel for cars and trucks.

Dr. Belcher’s team is already working on a biological template to efficiently split hydrogen from water similar to the one they successfully used to split oxygen from water. The hydrogen atoms in their current process get split into component protons and electrons. The new process under development would combine these back into hydrogen atoms and molecules.

Splitting hydrogen from water could help make hydrogen a more viable alternative to coal, nuclear, and fossil fuels.

The lead research behind the breakthrough is Dr. Angela Belcher, Germeshausen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Biological Engineering, has already won a MacArthur Foundation genius grant for her work on powering nanoscale electronic components.

“We’re letting biology help us work on solving those problems, solving what the next-next generation batteries are going to be,” says Dr. Belcher. She was featured on the Science Channel talking about her work.

It’s really fascinating work and is one step closer to getting away from fossil fuels and the problems they cause; which are slowly killing us.

[Via H+ Magazine]

Nick Upton

I write words.

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