The small prototype device created by researchers at EPFL

Researchers produce hydrogen from sunlight, water and rust

By Adam Williams

November 12, 2012

As scientists endeavor to increase the efficiency of solar panels, the challenge of storing the resultant energy cheaply and in an environmentally responsible way must also be met. To this end, researchers at Switzerland’s École polytechnique fédérale de Lausann (EPFL) have developed an inexpensive device that transforms light energy into hydrogen, for storage and later use. The new prototype makes use of sunlight, water, and metal oxides, including iron oxide – or rust.

Converting solar energy into hydrogen has been the goal of EPFL scientists for some time, with researcher Michaël Grätzel previously inventing the photoelectrochemical (PEC) tandem solar cell, which also used an iron oxide-based semiconductor, along with a dye-sensitized solar cell, to produce hydrogen directly from water. However, while Grätzel’s approach has merit, it is also prohibitively expensive. Therefore, this new research led by Kevin Sivula was focused on constructing a prototype from only affordable materials and techniques.

Read more: Researchers produce hydrogen from sunlight, water and rust.

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