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

Ag/ZnO-Nanorods Schottky diodes based UV-PDs are fabricated and tested May 26th, 2017

New metamaterial-enhanced MRI technique tested on humans May 26th, 2017

Controlling 3-D behavior of biological cells using laser holographic techniques May 26th, 2017

Unveiling the quantum necklace: Researchers simulate quantum necklace-like structures in superfluids May 26th, 2017

Possible Futures

Ag/ZnO-Nanorods Schottky diodes based UV-PDs are fabricated and tested May 26th, 2017

New metamaterial-enhanced MRI technique tested on humans May 26th, 2017

Controlling 3-D behavior of biological cells using laser holographic techniques May 26th, 2017

Unveiling the quantum necklace: Researchers simulate quantum necklace-like structures in superfluids May 26th, 2017

Academic/Education

MIT Energy Initiative awards 10 seed fund grants for early-stage energy research May 4th, 2017

Bar-Ilan University to set up quantum research center May 1st, 2017

California Research Alliance by BASF establishes more than 25 research projects in three years April 26th, 2017

SUNY Polytechnic Institute Announces Total of 172 Teams Selected to Compete in Solar in Your Community Challenge: Teams from 40 states, plus Washington, DC, 2 Territories, and 4 American Indian Reservations, Will Deploy Solar in Underserved Communities April 20th, 2017

Discoveries

Ag/ZnO-Nanorods Schottky diodes based UV-PDs are fabricated and tested May 26th, 2017

New metamaterial-enhanced MRI technique tested on humans May 26th, 2017

Controlling 3-D behavior of biological cells using laser holographic techniques May 26th, 2017

Unveiling the quantum necklace: Researchers simulate quantum necklace-like structures in superfluids May 26th, 2017

Announcements

Ag/ZnO-Nanorods Schottky diodes based UV-PDs are fabricated and tested May 26th, 2017

New metamaterial-enhanced MRI technique tested on humans May 26th, 2017

Controlling 3-D behavior of biological cells using laser holographic techniques May 26th, 2017

Unveiling the quantum necklace: Researchers simulate quantum necklace-like structures in superfluids May 26th, 2017

Environment

Can crab shells provide a 'green' solution to malaria? Study shows how a mixture of chitin and silver nanoparticles inhibits growth of mosquito larvae May 12th, 2017

NanoMONITOR shares its latest developments concerning the NanoMONITOR Software and the Monitoring stations April 21st, 2017

Wood filter removes toxic dye from water April 21st, 2017

Making Batteries From Waste Glass Bottles: UCR researchers are turning glass bottles into high performance lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and personal electronics April 19th, 2017

Energy

Three-dimensional graphene: Experiment at BESSY II shows that optical properties are tuneable May 24th, 2017

Stanford scientists use nanotechnology to boost the performance of key industrial catalyst May 18th, 2017

Fed grant backs nanofiber development: Rice University joins Department of Energy 'Next Generation Machines' initiative May 10th, 2017

Discovery of new transparent thin film material could improve electronics and solar cells: Conductivity is highest-ever for thin film oxide semiconductor material May 6th, 2017

Water

Using light to propel water : With new method, MIT engineers can control and separate fluids on a surface using only visible light April 25th, 2017

Graphene holds up under high pressure: Used in filtration membranes, ultrathin material could help make desalination more productive April 24th, 2017

Wood filter removes toxic dye from water April 21st, 2017

Shedding light on the absorption of light by titanium dioxide April 14th, 2017

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