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Nanowire Forests Using Sunlight To Split Water

Nanotechnology has been vast improved in fuel cell technology in the past few years. At present, electrical engineers from University of California, San Diego, are trying to build a forest of tiny nanowire trees in order to capture solar energy easily without using fossil fuels and harvest it for hydrogen fuel generation. It means, Nano-trees will harvest the sun’s energy to turn water into hydrogen fuel.


Nanowires are made from abundant natural materials like Silicon(Si) and Zinc Oxide(ZnO). It offers a cheap way to deliver hydrogen fuel on a mass scale. As hydrogen(H) is the most abundant element, so it attaches itself to other elements like nitrogen(N) or fluorine(F) and most probably oxygen(O) to create the water molecule. By separating hydrogen out into hydrogen gas for powering, fuel cells now have been dependent on electricity which is produced from fossil fuels. By observing and experimenting on these materials in the last few years, researchers found using nanomaterials to imitate photosynthesis and break water down into hydrogen and oxygen can create a more cost-effective and environmentally-friendly method for producing hydrogen.

Professor Deli Wang, from Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering said, “This is a clean way to generate clean fuel.” “With this structure, we have enhanced, by at least 400,000 times, the surface area for chemical reactions,” said Ke Sun, a PhD student in electrical engineering who led the project.

After the success of Angela Belcher at MIT, researchers have developed a different unique approach to mimicking photosynthesis for splitting water molecules by using a 3-D branched nano-wire array just like a forest of trees. This tree-like structure enables both the trees and the nanowire arrays to capture the maximum amount of solar energy. The nanowire forest can not only capture more light, but also it can produce more hydrogen gas. For more, you can click here.

Source : ScienceDaily

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