New nanomaterial can extract hydrogen fuel from seawater

It's possible to produce hydrogen to power fuel cells by extracting the gas from seawater, but the electricity required to do it makes the process costly. UCF researcher Yang Yang has come up with a new hybrid nanomaterial that harnesses solar energy and uses it to generate hydrogen from seawater more cheaply and efficiently than current materials.

The breakthrough could someday lead to a new source of the clean-burning fuel, ease demand for fossil fuels and boost the economy of Florida, where sunshine and seawater are abundant.

Yang, an assistant professor with joint appointments in the University of Central Florida's NanoScience Technology Center and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, has been working on solar hydrogen splitting for nearly 10 years.

It's done using a photocatalyst -- a material that spurs a chemical reaction using energy from light. When he began his research, Yang focused on using solar energy to extract hydrogen from purified water. It's a much more difficulty task with seawater; the photocatalysts needed aren't durable enough to handle its biomass and corrosive salt.

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