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Hydrogen, the future of energy generation


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    Scientists at TU Wien have designed a photocatalyst that could make the production of a new type of green hydrogen from sunlight more direct and controllable.

    Hydrogen could be an important part of our energy supply in the future: it can be stored, transported and burned as needed.

    However, most of the hydrogen available today is a by-product of natural gas production; this has to change for climate protection reasons.

    The best strategy so far for producing environmentally friendly "green hydrogen" is to split water into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity from renewable energy sources, e.g. photovoltaic cells.

    But it would be much easier if sunlight could be used directly to split water. This is exactly what the new catalysts now make possible, in a process called photocatalytic water splitting.

    The concept is not yet used industrially.

    At TU Wien, important steps have now been taken in this direction: on an atomic scale, the scientists realized a new combination of molecular and solid-state catalysts that can do the job by relying only on relatively inexpensive materials.

    "Actually, in order to split water with light, you have to solve two tasks at the same time," Alexey Cherevan of TU Wien's Institute of Materials Chemistry says in a statement.

    "We have to think about oxygen and hydrogen. The oxygen atoms in water must be transformed into O2 molecules, and the remaining hydrogen ions, which are just protons, must be converted into H2? molecules.

    Solutions for both tasks have now been found.

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