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A Nanoparticle Sunlight-to-Hydrogen Generator

Durable artificial-leaf scheme could be cheap

3 min read
A Nanoparticle Sunlight-to-Hydrogen Generator
Image: Ted Pawlicki/University of Rochester

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Image: Ted Pawlicki/University of Rochester
Particle Dance: A semiconductor nano particle [center] helps generate hydrogen from sunlight and water. Click on image to enlarge.

14 November 2012—Researchers at the University of Rochester have found an efficient way to  produce hydrogen fuel from water using sunlight. A light-powered hydrogen generator might replace bulky hydrogen tanks in future cars or complement photovoltaic solar cells, some scientists suggest. The system improves on previous schemes by both lasting longer and generating larger amounts of hydrogen. It might also be cheaper because it does not use a catalyst made of platinum or other precious metals, as is common in other experimental artificial photosynthesis systems.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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