U of L’s Conn Center finds new energy source

By on April 1, 2016

By Hannah Esrock–

U of L’s Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research has shown solar energy can create clean hydrogen fuel by converting water vapor from the air.

The Journal for Energy and Environmental Science recently published “Solar hydrogen production from seawater vapor electrolysis” by Conn Center researchers Sudesh Kumari, R. Turner White, Bijandra Kumar and Joshua Spurgeon. The article details a proof-of-concept system that could operate stably and efficiently at realistic conditions at the ocean’s surface.

To be able to properly utilize the potential for solar energy, there must be both a large area of land and a proper storage system to account for cloudy days. These are very large disadvantages that U of L’s Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research has addressed with their newly published article. The article discusses their findings on how to address this problem by switching to a “hydrogen fuel from solar energy by splitting sea water vapor from ambient humidity at near surface ocean conditions.”

The team discovered a way to switch up the solar driver electrolysis from it’s traditional function of simply using deionized liquid water on a high current. Instead, they do not use liquid water and use a slow current allowing water to “breathe.”

“This technology is also an important step toward providing personalized energy,” said Mahendra Sunkara, Conn Center Director. “Our solar fuels research team is making great progress towards durable technologies necessary for worldwide implementation”.

This new clean hydrogen fuel is a true breakthrough, because although the sun isn’t always out to give solar energy, there is always humidity near the sea. Hence, there will always be water vapor in the air near coastal locations. This sustainable method will prove to be especially helpful for places with limited fresh water resources like California, which is forced to ration their resources. Their limitations could change into a surplus of energy with the Conn Center’s breakthrough.

According to the team’s paper, this new technology is very attainable in the future and would be very beneficial both ecologically and to the scientific community.

File photo / The Louisville Cardinal

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