Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors


Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Scavenging energy waste to turn water into hydrogen fuel

Xiaochun Li and Huifang Xu
Xiaochun Li and Huifang Xu

Abstract:
Materials scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have designed a way to harvest small amounts of waste energy and harness them to turn water into usable hydrogen fuel. The process is simple, efficient and recycles otherwise-wasted energy into a usable form.

By Jill Sakai

Scavenging energy waste to turn water into hydrogen fuel

Madison, WI | Posted on March 13th, 2010

"This study provides a simple and cost-effective technology for direct water splitting that may generate hydrogen fuels by scavenging energy wastes such as noise or stray vibrations from the environment," the authors write in a new paper, published March 2 in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters. "This new discovery may have potential implications in solving the challenging energy and environmental issues that we are facing today and in the future."

The researchers, led by UW-Madison geologist and crystal specialist Huifang Xu, grew nanocrystals of two common crystals, zinc oxide and barium titanate, and placed them in water. When pulsed with ultrasonic vibrations, the nanofibers flexed and catalyzed a chemical reaction to split the water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. UW-Madison Mechanical Engineering Professor Xiaochun Li lent theoretical and experimental expertise to the ultrasonic vibrations part of the research.

When the fibers bend, asymmetries in their crystal structures generate positive and negative charges and create an electrical potential. This phenomenon, called the piezoelectric effect, has been well known in certain crystals for more than a century and is the driving force behind quartz clocks and other applications.

Xu, who is part of the Materials Science Program administered through the UW-Madison College of Engineering, and his colleagues applied the same idea to the nanocrystal fibers. "The bulk materials are brittle, but at the nanoscale they are flexible," Xu says, like the difference between fiberglass and a pane of glass.

Smaller fibers bend more easily than larger crystals and therefore also produce electric charges easily. So far, the researchers have achieved an impressive 18 percent efficiency with the nanocrystals, higher than most experimental energy sources.

In addition, Xu says, "because we can tune the fiber and plate sizes, we can use even small amounts of [mechanical] noise — like a vibration or water flowing to bend the fibers and plates. With this kind of technology, we can scavenge energy waste and convert it into useful chemical energy."

Rather than harvest this electrical energy directly, the scientists took a novel approach and used the energy to break the chemical bonds in water and produce oxygen and hydrogen gas.

"This is a new phenomenon, converting mechanical energy directly to chemical energy," Xu says, calling it a piezoelectrochemical (PZEC) effect.

The chemical energy of hydrogen fuel is more stable than the electric charge, he explains. It is relatively easy to store and will not lose potency over time.

With the right technology, Xu envisions this method being useful for generating small amounts of power from a multitude of small sources — for example, walking could charge a cell phone or music player and breezes could power streetlights.

"We have limited areas to collect large energy differences, like a waterfall or a big dam," he says. "But we have lots of places with small energies. If we can harvest that energy, it would be tremendous."

The new paper is co-authored by UW-Madison graduate student Kuang-Sheng Hong and research scientist Hiromi Konishi, who were co-supported by Li.

Xu's research is supported by grants from the UW-Madison Graduate School, National Science Foundation, NASA Astrobiology Institute and the U.S. Department of Energy.

####

For more information, please click here

Copyright © University of Wisconsin-Madison

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Scientists change properties of zeolites to improve hemodialysis July 29th, 2016

Novel state of matter: Observation of a quantum spin liquid July 29th, 2016

A new type of quantum bits July 29th, 2016

Lonely atoms, happily reunited July 29th, 2016

Possible Futures

Scientists change properties of zeolites to improve hemodialysis July 29th, 2016

Novel state of matter: Observation of a quantum spin liquid July 29th, 2016

A new type of quantum bits July 29th, 2016

Pixel-array quantum cascade detector paves the way for portable thermal imaging devices: Research team from TU-Wien Center for Micro- and Nanostructures have developed a new 'cooler' sensing instrument thereby increasing energy-efficiency and enhancing mobility for diagnostic tes July 28th, 2016

Academic/Education

Thomas Swan and NGI announce unique partnership July 28th, 2016

The NanoWizard® AFM from JPK is applied for interdisciplinary research at the University of South Australia for applications including smart wound healing and how plants can protect themselves from toxins July 26th, 2016

News from Quorum: The College of New Jersey use the Quorum Cryo-SEM preparation system in a project to study ice crystals in high altitude clouds July 19th, 2016

Leti and Korea Institute of Science and Technology to Explore Collaboration on Advanced Technologies for Digital Era July 14th, 2016

Discoveries

Scientists change properties of zeolites to improve hemodialysis July 29th, 2016

Novel state of matter: Observation of a quantum spin liquid July 29th, 2016

A new type of quantum bits July 29th, 2016

Lonely atoms, happily reunited July 29th, 2016

Announcements

Scientists change properties of zeolites to improve hemodialysis July 29th, 2016

Novel state of matter: Observation of a quantum spin liquid July 29th, 2016

A new type of quantum bits July 29th, 2016

Lonely atoms, happily reunited July 29th, 2016

Environment

Dirty to drinkable: Engineers develop novel hybrid nanomaterials to transform water July 28th, 2016

A 'smart dress' for oil-degrading bacteria July 24th, 2016

News from Quorum: The College of New Jersey use the Quorum Cryo-SEM preparation system in a project to study ice crystals in high altitude clouds July 19th, 2016

Researchers improve catalyst efficiency for clean industries: Method reduces use of expensive platinum July 8th, 2016

Energy

New nontoxic process promises larger ultrathin sheets of 2-D nanomaterials July 27th, 2016

Designing climate-friendly concrete, from the nanoscale up: New understanding of concrete’s properties could increase lifetime of the building material, decrease emissions July 25th, 2016

An accelerated pipeline to open materials research: ORNL workflow system unites imaging, algorithms, and HPC to advance materials discovery and design July 24th, 2016

Researchers discover key mechanism for producing solar cells: Better understanding of perovskite solar cells could boost widespread use July 21st, 2016

Water

Dirty to drinkable: Engineers develop novel hybrid nanomaterials to transform water July 28th, 2016

New nontoxic process promises larger ultrathin sheets of 2-D nanomaterials July 27th, 2016

Electricity generated with water, salt and a 3-atoms-thick membrane: EPFL researchers have developed a system that generates electricity from osmosis with unparalleled efficiency. Their work, featured in Nature, uses seawater, fresh water, and a new type of membrane just 3 atoms July 15th, 2016

Bouncing droplets remove contaminants like pogo jumpers: Researchers at Duke University and the University of British Columbia are exploring whether surfaces can shed dirt without being subjected to fragile coatings July 7th, 2016

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







Car Brands
Buy website traffic