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Hydrogen Out of Thin Air

“There is something in the air”… N2, O2, H2O, CO2, solar radiation. In principle all the ingredients are there to produce hydrogen H2, by using the solar light to split the moist H2O. That’s exactly what Japanese car company Toyota in Europe (TME) and DIFFER (Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research) have agreed to research upon. The self-imposed restriction of using moist, naturally present in the air, is justified by pointing at the pure character of the water vapor, no bubbles, as well as applicability in those places where water is not available.

new solid photoelectrochemical cell that was able to first capture water from ambient air and then produce hydrogen under the influence of sunlight. This first prototype immediately took 60 to 70 percent of the amount of hydrogen you can make from liquid water. The system is a membrane reactor in which polymer electrolyte membranes, porous photoelectrodes and materials that absorb water are combined.

When Toyota approached DIFFER, the latter group was already working on hydrolysis of water vapor. They have meanwhile shown that the idea works, but only for the 5% UV light. The next challenge is to expand the amount of light that can be used for the desired conversion. Once that has been achieved, scaling is next.

Both DIFFER and Toyota are operating in a social climate that is receptive towards hydrogen as an energy carrier. Both Japan as well as the Netherlands aspire to operate a hydrogen economy. The end goal is (very) local hydrogen production (like your roof), for instance for mobility, Toyota’s interest. Your home as the replacement for the petrol station.

Sunlight and this stand-alone prototype: all you need to produce hydrogen.

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[] – Hydrogen fuel from thin air
[] – Toyota and DIFFER explore innovative hydrogen production from humid air
[] – DIFFER (fusion & solar fuels)

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