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Scientists Devise New Method to Convert Water and Sunshine to 'Solar' Fuel

Apr 03, 2017 10:55 AM EDT
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Scientists Create New Method To Convert Water And Sunshine To 'Solar' Fuel
A team of scientists from the US Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology has successfully devised a new method to convert water and sunshine into usable "solar" fuel.
(Photo : Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A team of scientists from the US Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology has successfully devised a new method to convert water and sunshine into usable "solar" fuel. 

The group has created an artificial "solar" fuel that simply needs water in order to work. The process in creating the revolutionary fuel is actually simple. According to Scientific American, it simply needs sunlight to break water into various molecules -- as in hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen will then be broken down into hydrocarbon fuels or simple hydrogen gas.

John Gregoire, the study's principal investigator from the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, said the "solar" fuel can have a great impact on the growing renewable energy industry.

The new method has also solved the "photoanode" problem of the solar fuel dilemma. This is a catalyst that sets the conversion process, which allows solar energy and water to be converted into fuel.

According to Science Daily, the photoanode converts hydrogen into hydrocarbon by oxidizing water or splitting the H2O molecule. The splitting process is easy, but "rearranging" it is the tricky part.

Read Also: Tesla Powers Hawaiian Island With 54,000 Solar Panels, Battery Packs 

This is an unprecedented feat as scientists have been trying to find ways to create "solar" fuel. The discovery combines the usefulness of fossil fuels but with the benefits of renewable energy.

Other experts praise the novel approach of the scientists. Jeffrey Neaton from the University of California said the method is an "integrated" approach, which means scientists can actually find methods of improving their "solar" fuel by looking into previous discoveries in the field.

The "solar" fuel, in its final form, would be composed of the photoanode, photocathode, and "membrane" that will split the first two. This forms the fuel component of the solar fuel.

With the new "solar" fuel process, electric car batteries will become cheaper. A vehicle that runs in solar fuel may have an engine that "collects" water and converts it to fuel that the car uses.

Read Also: Synlight: Germany Turns on World's Largest Artificial Sun to Create Climate-Friendly Fuel 

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