Tweaked Semiconductor to Release Hydrogen from WaterCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: September 1, 2011 10:08AM
Hydrogen is the simplest of all elements with a single proton and single electron (and occasionally a neutron or two). Right now there is a great deal of interest in using this gas for fuel because the processes involved often result in only water, and not more harmful emissions. Because of how light hydrogen is though, it does not exist in our atmosphere because it will simply float off into space. One common way to get hydrogen is from coal and natural gas, which means to get the clean-burning hydrogen one must first use less clean materials. A potential source of hydrogen is water, H20, but separating the hydrogen and oxygen takes so much energy this method is not used much. Researchers at the Universities of Kentucky and Louisville have discovered a potentially cheaper means to release hydrogen from water. The team was exploring what can be done with an inexpensive semiconductor, comprised of antimony and gallium nitride, after simple tweaks were made to it. Their findings were a material capable of photoelectrochemical water splitting. What that means is if you put the tweaked material into water and let the Sun shine on it, the water will split into hydrogen and oxygen. This new technique may prove itself to be economical and a carbon-free hydrogen source for the future.