Solar power

Limitless Hydrogen Energy? Breakthrough Seen in Separating H from H2O

Article Image

Hydrogen is known to have the potential to become an important source of energy. And there’s an abundant supply of it, in our water, if we can just find a low-cost, efficient way of getting the oxygen in H2O to let go of it. The University of Houston (UH) has just announced that they may have just found it.

Splitting the hydrogen and oxygen in water is accomplished using a process called “water electrolysis” in which both the hydrogen and oxygen molecules separate into individual gasses via separate “evolution reactions.” Each evolution reaction is induced by an electrode in the presence of a catalyst.

electrolysis

Water can also be split using photocatalysis that uses solar power directly instead of electricity, but it’s less efficient since water only absorbs a small range of the light spectrum.

It’s been the lack of an efficient, low-cost catalyst for the oxygen molecules that’s been holding the full-scale extraction of hydrogen back. Up until now, oxygen catalysts have been based on scarce, expensive “noble” metals such as iridium, platinum, or ruthenium.

nobel metals

This is a problem that has been thwarting the full-scale commercial extraction of hydrogen for energy for some time, and UH isn’t the only entity searching for a replacement. Just last spring, the Canadian Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the University of Toronto announced the discovery of a new oxygen…

Solar sisters: how green energy is empowering women in remote communities

Women often benefit most from internet access but millions of homes lack reliable power. We meet those leapfrogging into the digital age thanks to clean energy

In a remote village in the Indian state of Rajasthan, Madhu Kumar sits outside a small thatched house, talking to a group of other women. At first sight, it’s the most traditional of scenes. Sari-clad villagers pass the time while their children play cricket with makeshift bats and balls on the dusty ground. A cow wanders slowly between the houses.

But come closer, and you’ll see something at once familiar and, in this context, revolutionary. Kumar is making notes on an iPad. It’s been charged from a solar panel on her roof, and she’s using it to jot down orders for solar lights. She is a ‘solar saheli’ (solar friend) – a sales agent for Frontier Markets, a local business set up by entrepreneur Ajaita Shah, that sells a range of such technology across the state.

Access to computers and the internet is offering women, like those in Pakistan’s Chitral district, ‘a window to the world’

Clean, bright solar lights are life-changing for villagers who, until now, had to make do with the smoky, dim glow of kerosene lanterns. But it’s not just about light to see by. Kumar is part of a revolution that is sweeping quietly across much of rural Asia and Africa. It is one that harnesses locally sourced…