Renewable energy is a critical area of research given the ongoing climate crisis. It is also at the forefront of a new green economy of energy which promises jobs as well as scientific progress. Hydrogen fuel cells are an important energy carrier critical to low-carbon energy alternatives. As announced in Nature Communications, scientists have achieved a critical breakthrough in this field with a new prototype device that can pull moisture from the air and convert it into hydrogen.
Hydrogen fuel cells are ways to store energy produced by sources such as wind and solar. Unlike regular batteries, they do not run down. Such hydrogen power is even used in electric vehicles to help power motion alongside more conventional batteries, which are made from harmful materials. Previous hydrogen fuel cell work has focused on breaking down water to produce hydrogen, a natural and abundant element. However, many areas of the world are scarce on liquid freshwater.
The new prototype device pulls moisture from the air and can work in arid climates with as low as 4% humidity. An electrolyzer composed of electrodes is powered by solar energy. These electrodes enclose a water-harvesting “sponge” which also holds electrolytes. The solar power breaks down the H2O into hydrogen and oxygen. The pure gases are then collected in reservoirs. This is a method of storing power, given the nature of the chemical reactions which split the molecules.
“This so-called direct air electrolysis (DAE) module can work under a bone-dry environment with a relative humidity of four percent, overcoming water supply issues and producing green hydrogen sustainably with minimal impact to the environment,” the paper states. Even dry landscapes will be able to produce hydrogen with this method, once it is scaled up and further tested. When the separated hydrogen and oxygen are recombined, the “stored” energy is produced and can be used just like a battery. While these fuel cells are still not as commonly used as traditional batteries, they are an evolving, important technology.
Scientists have developed a prototype device which can create a hydrogen fuel cell from ambient moisture in the air.
Hydrogen fuel is a sustainable “battery” for producing electric power.
h/t: [Science Alert]