First. A little background from our good friends at Wikipedia: Renewable electricity can
The remainder of this article was originally published by NoCamels.com
Water could be the source for hydrogen-fueled cars one day in the near future, thanks to continued scientific breakthroughs such as a recent one by Israeli scientists.
Researchers led by Dr. Arik Yochelis and Dr. Iris Visoly-Fisher of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Prof. Avner Rothschild of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, say they have identified a missing mechanism for an environmentally friendly way to split water molecules in order to produce energy without the need for an outside catalyst.
“It is a conceptual change in research and this can provide a new perspective in how technology in the future can be approached,” Yochelis, of the Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research and the Alexandre Yersin Department of Solar Energy and Environmental Physics at Ben-Gurion, tells NoCamels.
Although it’s been well-known for decades that production of hydrogen that does not emit greenhouse gases requires the splitting of water molecules (H2O) into the elements from which they are composed (two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom), that process has always demanded more energy than was gained back at the end of the process. As such, it has never been commercially viable.
Yochelis tells NoCamels that he and his fellow researchers believed there was “something missing” in how to go about splitting the water molecules in an energetically favorable way.
“In water splitting literature, people assumed they sufficiently well understood chemical reactions and mechanisms,” explains Yochelis. Much is indeed known but the knowledge is incomplete and sometimes the “devil is in the details,” he says.
From left: Dr. Arik Yochelis, Dr. Iris Visoly-Fisher, both of
After years of separate experiments, the research teams in BGU and Technion joined forces, hoping that three research teams were better than one. It proved a winning move.
The researchers were the first team to successfully reveal the fundamental chemical reaction present in solar power that could form the missing link to generate the electricity necessary to accomplish this process. That would allow the process to unfold naturally instead of relying on large amounts of man-made energy sources or precious metals to catalyze the reaction.
“Beyond the scientific breakthrough, we have shown that the photo-electrochemical reaction mechanism belongs to a family of chemical reactions for which Prof. Gerhard Ertl was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, about a decade ago. Our discovery opens new strategies for photochemical processes,” says Yochelis.
But Yochelis won’t say whether this finding is a watershed moment for energy just yet. For one, he wants the science community to test and retest their mechanism to ascertain that their finding is correct.
“It is still too early to know the science community’s reaction” to the new finding, says Yochelis. “We need to give it a year to allow people to learn.”
Yet, the discovery could have a significant impact on efforts to replace carbon-based fuels with more environmentally friendly hydrogen fuels.