Clean fuels: how can we produce them more efficiently?
Photo by Darren Halstead on Unsplash
What is it about?
Hydrogen is one of the ‘clean fuels’ we hope will provide us with sustainable green energy. One of the ways to produce hydrogen is by using light to ‘split’ water. To do this at scale, you need a ‘catalyst’ – something that will speed up the process. One of the catalysts used is potassium niobite. It has a high ‘energy gap’, meaning that it takes a lot of energy to make the process work. If you can make the ‘energy gap’ smaller, you need less energy to make the process work. Scientists can make the ‘energy gap’ smaller using a process called ‘doping’. This means adding metal atoms to help your material absorb more light. In this study, the scientists worked out that water splitting works best if you add silver atoms to your catalyst. They also found that they could reduce carbon dioxide levels by using manganese instead.
Why is it important?
KEY TAKEAWAY: As we try to reduce our use of fossil fuels, we need to find other fuels that can be produced with less damage to the environment. This sort of project is helping us work out the most efficient – and therefore least damaging – way to make hydrogen fuel.