Cheap hydrogen around the corner?

In Science turns sun, surf into green energy, The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that a University of New South Wales professor, Leigh Sheppard, believes he is developing a path for combining solar power systems with sea water to be able to make hydrogen on millions of Australian rooftops by 2020.

According to Sheppard, with installation on 1.6 million rooftops, this system could cover Australia’s entire energy needs.  “It is the cleanest, greenest energy option for a sustainable economy.”

Dr Sheppard said much more research was needed, but the university team was confident it would be able to make the process efficient enough within 10 years for it then to be developed commercially. Its technique relies on using a light sensitive material, titanium dioxide, to harness the power of the sun to split water into oxygen and hydrogen gas. “The process has the additional advantage that it works best in sea water,” Dr Sheppard said.

Australia was rich in titanium, and had abundant sunshine. “And we are surrounded by ocean.”

While far too early to tell whether there is a real there there, advances are being made in energy efficiency and new energy approaches virtually every day.  Deploying these technologies (along with existing technologies) offers to change radically discussions of Global Warming — this process, if real, could eliminate coal-fired electricity in the 2020s. 

But … we should not hold our breath … a decade out in the lab is certainly not around the corner.  … This should not be an excuse not to do things to improve energy efficiency and introduce renewable energy systems … but discussions like these point to the critical value of increasing the resources for energy research and development.

2 responses to “Cheap hydrogen around the corner?

  1. This sounds like a story for the front cover of Popular Science. You know, write a story about the future and never hear about it again. From what I can figure Ectality will put all these ideas (BMW’s liquid hydrogen, high pressure storage tanks under little johnny’s bottom, and this Rube Goldberg type idea for hydrogen production) to rest. The sooner, the better.

  2. As I understand the problem with hydrogen is not the hydrolysis. We can already do this very economically with grid power. The problem is compressing and concentrating enough of those little hydrogen atoms into a small enough space to be useful.

    If this hydrogen on-demand technology really works such that there’s no need for compression, storage and transportation then it’s check-mate against every other renewable technology.

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