Scientists from Melbourne-based RMIT University have pioneered a new type of solar paint that serves as a virtually endless source of clean energy. The material, according to the team, works by absorbing moisture from the atmosphere, and then disintegrating it into hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The resultant hydrogen can in turn be used as a zero-emissions fuel source.
As pointed out by the researchers, this energy-producing paint is developed from a newly-synthesized compound that like silica gel is used for its hygroscopic properties in sachets intended to keep moisture out of medicine, food, and electronics. The substance in question molybdenum sulfide also boasts impressive semiconducting capabilities.
As an added advantage, it helps facilitate the splitting of water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen atoms. Speaking about the breakthrough, Torben Daeneke, a professor at RMIT and the study’s lead scientist, 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.
Recently published in the ACS Nano journal, the research could pave the way for an efficient, inexhaustible alternative to environmentally-damaging fossil fuels. The hydrogen atoms produced by the solar paint could in turn be used to power fuel cells as well as traditional combustion engines. Daeneke went on to add:
Our new development has a big range of advantages. There’s no need for clean or filtered water to feed the system. Any place that has water vapor in the air, even remote areas far from water, can produce fuel.
The material’s efficacy does not diminish even in dry, yet hot environments typical of coastal regions. During the day, intense sunlight turns large portions of sea water into vapor. The paint then draws the moisture-laden air, using it to generate environment-friendly usable energy. Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh, a member of the research team, observed:
This is an extraordinary concept – making fuel from the sun and water vapor in the air.
Source: RMIT University