Scientists find a more efficient way to produce hydrogen from organic waste

While most people think of electricity and EVs when they think of zero-emissions driving, there is another technology that promises no pollution. Vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells are another option, but the challenge now is a hydrogen fueling infrastructure and the production of hydrogen. Scientists at Tokyo University of Science have found a new technique of using rust and light to speed up hydrogen production from an organic waste solution.The researchers think that the discovery could revolutionize the clean energy industry. The new study indicates that a form of rust called α-FeOOH along with Hg-Xe lamp irradiation can be a 25 times more effective catalyst for producing hydrogen than titanium dioxide under the same light. Some issues have to be dealt with in any system.

One critical item that must be addressed is a system to prevent hydrogen and oxygen from recoupling. Once the hydrogen is made, the recoupling poses a potential hazard. The team was surprised at the generation of hydrogen using rust as the catalyst. Most iron oxides aren't known to reduce hydrogen, according to one of the researchers.

The team found that α-FeOOH was activated by oxygen, which was another surprise as previous studies had shown that oxygen suppresses hydrogen production by capturing the excited electrons. In testing, the light and rust combined in the team's process to produce stable hydrogen for more than 400 hours.

The team intends to continue its research into the process. The specific process by which the α-FeOOH is activated by oxygen remains unknown. The next challenge for the team is to explore that mechanism. The hope is that the perfected process might help reach a zero-emissions future with a sustainable energy source.