Researcher creates synthetic material that separates water using sunlight

In the plant world, photosynthesis uses sunlight to create the food that plants need to survive. A researcher from Florida has made a discovery that mimics plants using a synthetic material that uses sunlight to produce oxygen. Jose L. Mendoza-Cortes, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Florida State University, discovered the material.

The synthetic material captures sunlight and breaks water into oxygen and hydrogen. The discovery was made while the researcher was working with a material called birnessite, also known as manganese oxide. The material is made of layers and when it consists of a single layer, it can trap sunlight at very fast rates.

When exposed to sunlight it is able to break water creating a sort of artificial photosynthesis. When breaking water it makes hydrogen, which can then be used in fuel cells for powering homes and cars. The discovery is self-sustaining in theory and is green thanks to no production of carbon dioxide or other waste materials.

The scientists thinks that the material could potentially be installed on the roof of a home to generate hydrogen for heating or other needs. It's unclear when or if the material and process might be commercialized.