Solar paint generates hydrogen fuel by splitting water [watch video]

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A solar paint that has the potential of ending all our energy woes has been developed by scientists at RMIT University in Melbourne.

The solar paint can be applied like any other paint, but it has the unique abilities of absorbing water vapour and sun’s energy and generate hydrogen – the cleanest source of energy.┬áThe paint contains a newly developed compound that acts like silica gel, which is used in sachets to absorb moisture and keep food, medicines and electronics fresh and dry.

Scientists point out that unlike silica gel, the new material, synthetic molybdenum-sulphide, also acts as a semi-conductor and catalyses the splitting of water atoms into hydrogen and oxygen. You can find the study here.

Using a simple, scalable method, the researchers developed a photocatalyst to generate hydrogen from water vapor using a highly porous, sulfur-rich molybdenum sulfide. The compound belongs to a class of highly conductive materials previously recognized as efficient water-splitting catalysts in liquid. Testing showed that the sulfide strongly absorbed moisture from the air.

Then, combining the sulfide with titanium dioxide nanoparticles, the researchers created an ink that can be coated onto surfaces, such as glass. Films printed with the ink produced hydrogen without electrolytes or external power sources at a relatively high rate. The moisture-absorbing photocatalytic paint can be applied to any surface such as building facades, introducing the novel capability of generating hydrogen fuel just about anywhere.

Lead researcher Dr Torben Daeneke, from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, said: “We found that mixing the compound with titanium oxide particles leads to a sunlight-absorbing paint that produces hydrogen fuel from solar energy and moist air.

“Titanium oxide is the white pigment that is already commonly used in wall paint, meaning that the simple addition of the new material can convert a brick wall into energy harvesting and fuel production real estate.

“Our new development has a big range of advantages,” he said. “There’s no need for clean or filtered water to feed the system. Any place that has water vapour in the air, even remote areas far from water, can produce fuel.” [Check out the video below]

His colleague, Distinguished Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh, said hydrogen was the cleanest source of energy and could be used in fuel cells as well as conventional combustion engines as an alternative to fossil fuels.

“This system can also be used in very dry but hot climates near oceans. The sea water is evaporated by the hot sunlight and the vapour can then be absorbed to produce fuel.

“This is an extraordinary concept – making fuel from the sun and water vapour in the air.”

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