(CN) — Australian researchers say they have developed a solar paint that absorbs water vapor and sunlight, generating clean hydrogen energy in a process that offers a potentially limitless source of power.
The paint features a new compound that acts like silica gel, a drying agent used in sachets to absorb moisture and keep food fresh.
The team from RMIT University in Australia said Wednesday in the journal “ACS Nano” that the new material, synthetic molybdenum-sulfide, also functions as a semiconductor and catalyzes the splitting of water atoms into oxygen and hydrogen.
“We found that mixing the compound with titanium oxide particles leads to a sunlight-absorbing paint that produces hydrogen fuel from solar energy and moist air,” lead author Torben Daeneke said.
As titanium oxide is a common ingredient in paint, the new material could convert a brick wall into fuel production real estate.
“Our new development has a big range of advantages,” Daeneke said. “There’s no need for clean or filtered water to feed the system. Any place that has water vapor in the air, even remote areas far from water, can produce fuel.”
Daeneke’s colleague, Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh, said hydrogen could be used in fuel cells as well as conventional combustion engines.
“This system can also be used in very dry but hot climates near oceans,” said Kalantar-zadeh. “The seawater is evaporated by the hot sunlight and the vapor can then be absorbed to produce fuel. This is an extraordinary concept: making fuel from the sun and water vapor in the air.”