Last week, I covered nanotechnology research that mimics photosynthesis to split water molecules into hydrogen gas. The resulting gas could be used for powering fuel cells.
Despite the comments being led off into an odd tangent about this development depriving the earth of its water resources, the aim of this line of research is to find sustainable and environmentally friendly methods for producing hydrogen gas.
In keeping with this spirit, Santa Barbara, CA-based HyperSolar, Inc. has announced this week that they have plans for producing “the world’s first nanotechnology-based, zero-carbon process for the production of renewable hydrogen and natural gas.”
I suppose in anticipation of some concern that potable water would be used in the proposed process, Tim Young, CEO of HyperSolar, made it clear in the press release that waste water would be used in the hydrogen production.
“Our research and development to date gives us a high degree of confidence that our innovative process can achieve commercial viability,” said Young. “Starting with a negative value feedstock in the form of wastewater and operating in low cost reactors, we believe that our artificial photosynthesis process of extracting hydrogen from water will be cost effective.”
There are not a lot of details about the process that Hypersolar is planning to adopt. We know from the quote above that it will be an “artificial photosynthesis process” like those I blogged on last week. And we know that nanoparticles will be used to detoxify the wastewater to “produce clean water and pure hydrogen in the presence of sunlight.” But we don’t know what nanoparticles will be used—except that they will be made from low-cost semiconducting materials—nor how they will be used in the process. Nonetheless Hypersolar has said that they expect to have a robust prototype of its process by 2013.
This year they will be attempting to meet the following milestones:
1. A proof-of-concept microparticle for hydrogen production using conventional photovoltaic elements
2. Analysis of the feedstock potential of multiple wastewater sources
3. A complete photoreactor prototype for sustained hydrogen production
4. Design of nanoparticles using low-cost semiconducting materials
I am pleased to see a company make such a grand proposal and I wish them luck. However, if they are successful in finding a cheap and environmentally friendly method for producing hydrogen gas for fuel cells, maybe they can turn their attention to finding a cheap and safe way of creating an infrastructure to distribute the hydrogen to cars powered by fuel cells.