Another Fuel Underway As Researchers Invent A Device That Turns Water into Energy

Akanimo Sampson

Akanimo Sampson

Humans are making tremendous advances in science these days. Amazingly, a new type of “lung” created by researchers at Stanford University has resulted into an hydrogen fuel – a clean source of energy that could one day power everything from cars to smart phones.

Though this isn’t the first device to produce hydrogen fuel, the unique design could be the first step along the path to an efficient method of generating hydrogen fuel.

A Rael Science post on Google however, says the Stanford team describes their device in a paper published last Thursday in the journal Joule.

When air enters a human lung, it passes through a thin membrane. This membrane extracts the oxygen from the air and sends it into the bloodstream. The unique structure of the organ makes this gas exchange highly efficient.

When one combines hydrogen with oxygen, what results is electricity – and unlike the burning of fossil fuels, the only byproduct is water. For that reason, researchers have been looking into hydrogen fuel for decades, but they simply have not found a way to produce it that is efficient enough to be worthwhile.

This is mainly because hydrogen does not often exist on its own in nature – we need to isolate it, often by separating water into hydrogen and oxygen.

The Stanford researchers’ lung is essentially a pouch created out of a thick plastic film. Tiny water-repelling pores cover the exterior of the pouch, while gold and platinum nanoparticles line its interior.

By placing the pouch in water and applying voltage, the researchers were able to compel the device to create energy at an efficiency of 32 percent higher than if they laid the film flat. They claim this is because the lung-like shape did a better job than other fuel cell designs of minimising the bubbles that can form – and hurt efficiency – during the energy-generation process.

“The geometry is important,” Stanford research Yi Cui told New Scientist.

The team will now focus on scaling-up their design and finding a way to get it to tolerate higher temperatures. At the moment, it does not work above 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit), which could be a problem for commercial applications.

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