A Method for Producing Hydrogen Fuel from Seawater

Scientists at Stanford University have devised a way to make hydrogen fuel from solar energy, electrodes and seawater. Stanford chemistry professor Hongjie Dai said: “Now, because the so-called hydrogen energy economy is only in the initial stage of growth, it has not yet taken off, so the demand for hydrogen is still quite limited. However, I can imagine that there will be more hydrogen in the future. Demand.”

Hydrogen-powered cars are already on the road, and hydrogen-powered trains are already running in Germany. In addition, the first hydrogen-powered ferry will begin operations in San Francisco this year, Norway is planning to design a zero-emission cargo ship, and Singapore’s startups are developing the first hydrogen-cell range aircraft. Professor Dai said: “If hydrogen-driven vehicles and other machines are used in the future, they will need a lot of hydrogen, and then you will start thinking about where to get the hydrogen.”

Although hydrogen fuel does not cause exhaust pipe pollution, most hydrogen fuels are manufactured from fossil fuel natural gas. Hydrogen fuel can be obtained from a cleaner source, namely water. By electrolysis, hydrogen in water can be separated from oxygen and pure hydrogen can be obtained. But so far, the process relies on expensive purified water. In order to scale the use of hydrogen fuel, a source that is less expensive and does not have to consume potable water is needed.

Hydrogen production from seawater
The researchers tested an improved simple electrolysis. In brine, the positive electrode typically attracts chloride ions and rapidly corrodes the metal. With a new layer of coating, the researchers can maintain a longer life, and this means that the team can use its equipment to make hydrogen gas more quickly by using 10 times more power than usual. Researchers have also made this design more efficient; in addition, the process can operate on regenerative power.

Future application
According to one statistic, a large cargo ship can produce carcinogenic pollutants and greenhouse gases equivalent to 50 million cars. In the future, ships operating on hydrogen fuel cells will be able to obtain fuel directly from seawater.

Although the research is still in its infancy, Professor Dai said that companies are interested in obtaining the technology’s authorization. In theory, the fuel produced by this technology can be used in vehicles such as cars and airplanes. Because the process also produces oxygen, it can be used in submarines, not only to provide fuel for ships, but also to provide oxygen to ship personnel. In addition, divers can use this technology in their equipment to replace oxygen cylinders. Hydrogen fuel cells can also store electricity from a power plant or store energy at home.

Fuel cells store more energy than normal batteries and avoid environmental pollution. Professor Dai said: “Because fuel cells have higher energy densities than batteries, hydrogen may be the source of energy for next-generation energy facilities. This means that when refilling the fuel, you can travel longer distances or drive heavier facilities. In order to mature the hydrogen industry, there are still engineering and infrastructure challenges to be solved. However, the ocean itself has the potential to provide fuel.”

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Scientists at Stanford University have devised a way to make hydrogen fuel from solar energy.

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