Japanese research team succeeds in extracting hydrogen from water with sunlight


Using a photocatalyst, a research team from the University of Tokyo and others was able to safely extract 100m3 of high-purity hydrogen by irradiating sunlight to breakdown water into oxygen and hydrogen.

It is predicted to lead to a low-cost technique for mass-producing hydrogen, which is gaining popularity as a next-generation energy source.

A collaborative study team from the New Energy Industry and Technology Development Organization (NEDO), the University of Tokyo, and Shinshu University completed the successful experiment in August 2016, and it was published in the worldwide scientific magazine Nature in August.

The research team is working on a technique that employs a material that decomposes water into hydrogen and oxygen by leveraging the function of a “photocatalyst,” which absorbs sunlight and speeds up the substance’s chemical reaction.

Over the last two years, the research team has produced 100m3 of hydrogen by placing a panel with this material outside, pouring water, and collecting just hydrogen from a combination of hydrogen and oxygen dissolved by sunlight.

Hydrogen is difficult to treat because it burns or explodes when mixed with oxygen when it comes into contact with fire.

The study team is the first in the world to effectively extract hydrogen on a 100m3 scale, and it is likely to lead to a low-cost hydrogen manufacturing method.

The objective, according to the research team, is to design more efficient new materials for practical application.

“Such an experiment has never been done due to the risk of explosion,” Kazunari Domaine, a special professor at the University of Tokyo and a part of the study team, stated, “but we have created a mechanism that can manage it securely.”

When exposed with light, a photocatalyst is a material that stimulates a chemical reaction of surrounding chemicals, and ‘titanium oxide,’ which is used in white paints and cosmetics, is a typical material.

Following the discovery of the process for degrading water into hydrogen and oxygen when exposed to UV radiation, ‘titanium oxide’ was used to the breakdown of organic waste.

When hydrogen is burnt, unlike fossil fuels, it does not produce carbon dioxide.

Water electrolysis may also be used to produce hydrogen.

Not only may hydrogen help with ‘decarbonization,’ but it can also be used to collect and store hydrogen from water using surplus electricity once the technology is in place.

Despite the fact that the cost of producing hydrogen is now greater than that of natural gas, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry hopes to achieve a decarbonized society by 2050 by decreasing the cost of hydrogen to less than a fifth of what it is now.

The majority of hydrogen now provided to the globe is extracted from fossil fuels such as natural gas, but because carbon dioxide is created concurrently with hydrogen, carbon dioxide must be collected and buried in the ground for decarbonization.

As a result, it’s critical to generate hydrogen without releasing carbon dioxide.

Arnes Biogradlija
Creative Content Director at EnergyNews.Biz

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