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

Application of air-sensitive semiconductors in nanoelectronics: 2-D semiconductor gallium selenide in encapsulated nanoelectronic devices September 22nd, 2017

Researchers set time limit for ultrafast perovskite solar cells September 22nd, 2017

DNA triggers shape-shifting in hydrogels, opening a new way to make 'soft robots' September 21st, 2017

Physicists develop new recipes for design of fast single-photon gun Physicists develop high-speed single-photon sources for quantum computers of the future September 21st, 2017

Possible Futures

Application of air-sensitive semiconductors in nanoelectronics: 2-D semiconductor gallium selenide in encapsulated nanoelectronic devices September 22nd, 2017

Researchers set time limit for ultrafast perovskite solar cells September 22nd, 2017

DNA triggers shape-shifting in hydrogels, opening a new way to make 'soft robots' September 21st, 2017

Physicists develop new recipes for design of fast single-photon gun Physicists develop high-speed single-photon sources for quantum computers of the future September 21st, 2017

Academic/Education

Two Scientists Receive Grants to Develop New Materials: Chad Mirkin and Monica Olvera de la Cruz recognized by Sherman Fairchild Foundation August 16th, 2017

Moving at the Speed of Light: University of Arizona selected for high-impact, industrial demonstration of new integrated photonic cryogenic datalink for focal plane arrays: Program is major milestone for AIM Photonics August 10th, 2017

Graduate Students from Across the Country Attend Hands-on NanoCamp: Prominent scientists Warren Oliver, Ph.D., and George Pharr, Ph.D., presented a weeklong NanoCamp for hand-picked graduate students across the United States July 26th, 2017

The Physics Department of Imperial College, London, uses the Quorum Q150T to deposit metals and ITO to make plasmonic sensors and electric contact pads July 13th, 2017

Discoveries

Application of air-sensitive semiconductors in nanoelectronics: 2-D semiconductor gallium selenide in encapsulated nanoelectronic devices September 22nd, 2017

Researchers set time limit for ultrafast perovskite solar cells September 22nd, 2017

DNA triggers shape-shifting in hydrogels, opening a new way to make 'soft robots' September 21st, 2017

Physicists develop new recipes for design of fast single-photon gun Physicists develop high-speed single-photon sources for quantum computers of the future September 21st, 2017

Announcements

Application of air-sensitive semiconductors in nanoelectronics: 2-D semiconductor gallium selenide in encapsulated nanoelectronic devices September 22nd, 2017

Researchers set time limit for ultrafast perovskite solar cells September 22nd, 2017

DNA triggers shape-shifting in hydrogels, opening a new way to make 'soft robots' September 21st, 2017

Physicists develop new recipes for design of fast single-photon gun Physicists develop high-speed single-photon sources for quantum computers of the future September 21st, 2017

Environment

Solar-to-fuel system recycles CO2 to make ethanol and ethylene: Berkeley Lab advance is first demonstration of efficient, light-powered production of fuel via artificial photosynthesis September 19th, 2017

High-tech electronics made from autumn leaves: New process converts biomass waste into useful electronic devices August 30th, 2017

Nanoparticles pollution rises 30 percent when flex-fuel cars switch from bio to fossil: Study carried out in São Paulo, home to the world's largest flex fuel urban fleet, shows increase of ultrafine particulate matter when ethanol prices rose and consumption fell August 28th, 2017

A more complete picture of the nano world August 24th, 2017

Energy

Researchers set time limit for ultrafast perovskite solar cells September 22nd, 2017

Copper catalyst yields high efficiency CO2-to-fuels conversion: Berkeley Lab scientists discover critical role of nanoparticle transformation September 20th, 2017

Solar-to-fuel system recycles CO2 to make ethanol and ethylene: Berkeley Lab advance is first demonstration of efficient, light-powered production of fuel via artificial photosynthesis September 19th, 2017

Insect eyes inspire new solar cell design from Stanford August 31st, 2017

Water

Magnetized viruses attack harmful bacteria: Rice, China team uses phage-enhanced nanoparticles to kill bacteria that foul water treatment systems August 2nd, 2017

Bacteria-coated nanofiber electrodes clean pollutants in wastewater July 1st, 2017

Smart materials used in ultrasound behave similar to water, Penn chemists report June 16th, 2017

Plasmonics could bring sustainable society, desalination tech June 2nd, 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