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KU Leuven team creates solar panel that produces hydrogen from moisture in air

Bioscience engineers at KU Leuven have created a solar panel that produces hydrogen gas from moisture in the air. After ten years of development, the panel can now produce 250 liters per day—a world record, according to the researchers. Twenty of these solar panels could provide electricity and heat for one family for an entire winter.

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A traditional solar panel converts between 18 to 20% of the solar energy into electricity. If that electric power is used to split the water into hydrogen gas and oxygen, you lose a lot of energy. The KU Leuven bioscience engineers solved this problem by designing a solar panel of 1.6 m² that converts 15% of the sunlight straight into hydrogen gas.

It’s a unique combination of physics and chemistry. In the beginning, the efficiency was only 0.1 per cent, and barely any hydrogen molecules were formed. Today, you see them rising to the surface in bubbles. So that’s ten years of work—always making improvements, detecting problems. That’s how you get results.

—Professor Johan Martens

Twenty of these panels produce enough heat and electricity to get through the winter in a thoroughly insulated house and still have power left. Add another twenty panels, and you can drive an electric car for an entire year.

—KU Leuven researcher Jan Rongé

Today, most hydrogen gas is produced using oil and gas.—Grey hydrogen gas, in other words—not a big win for the climate or the environment. The KU Leuven researchers believe this is about to change.

The solar panel will be under test in Oud-Heverlee, a rural town in Flemish Brabant. The house we visit is well insulated and gets most of its power from solar panels, a solar boiler, and a heat pump. It is not connected to the gas grid. It only uses power from the grid in the winter.

Soon, 20 hydrogen gas panels will be added to this mix. If all goes well, more panels will be installed on a piece of land in the street. This will allow the other 39 families in the street to benefit from the project as well. The hydrogen gas produced in the summer will be stored and converted into electricity and heat in the winter.

The hydrogen gas produced in the summer can be stored in an underground pressure vessel until winter. One family would need about 4 cubic meters of storage—the size of a regular oil tank.

For Johan Martens, a test project like the one in Oud-Heverlee is what he and his team have been working towards for years.

We wanted to design something sustainable that is affordable and can be used practically anywhere. We’re using cheap raw materials and don't need precious metals or other expensive components.

—Johan Martens

The actual cost of the hydrogen gas panels is still unknown, as the mass production is yet to start. The researchers, however, say that it should be affordable. The emphasis will not so much be on large production units, but rather on the combination of smaller, local systems. It will also require less energy-guzzling transport of energy, whether it’s gas, oil, or electricity.

Last week, Toyota announced that it wants to produce hydrogen gas with a prototype designed by Johan Martens’s team in 2014. This device is a little screen (10 cm2) that the engineers will scale up to a large panel.

Comments

Arnold

Would you say Nth Korea's nuclear programme has no relevance to its missile programme. After reading the following expose on the western technologically 'developed' powers in general and specifically NATO in this instance I have trouble understanding who the 'Terrorists' are.
I.M. O. peoples or states who use these byproducts of the nuclear industry are the possessors of weapons of mass destruction and spread terror amongst all citizens on the planet as they are all in the firing line.
Maybe if the Trillion dollars earmarked over 10 years for nuclear arsenal upgrades globally were invested into life affirming projects including alternatives to fossil fuel use.
What a trillion dollars will not do is decontaminate the battlefields polluted by the worlds state actors against all sorts of 'supposed terrorists' and 'possessors of WMD' or as these newsworthy stories show ordinary people going about their business.
We see the silencing of whistle blowers being hounded by the authorities in good old USA, land of the free speech being hounded and locked up in it's vendetta against self knowledge................... and somehow we are expected to trust the same actors??

NATO's Military Enslavement and Toxic Contamination of Sardinia ...
https://21stcenturywire.com/.../natos-military-enslavement-and-contamination-of-sardi...
Jul 13, 2016 - Militaries and arms manufacturers have used Sardinia to test new bullets [including DU, depleted uranium], bombs, missiles and drones.

Italian military officials' trial ignites suspicions of links between weapon ...
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-29/sardinia-military-weapons.../10759614
Jan 28, 2019 - Sardinia is known for its rugged scenery and stunning beaches, but ... army has dismissed a report linking exposure to Depleted Uranium to disease ... from renting out the ranges to NATO countries and others including Israel.

Engineer-Poet
Note the references to reactor plutonium use in weapons, including this:
"The facts were classified SECRET, but the U. S. had actually exploded a device made of "reactor-grade plutonium" at the Nevada Test site in 1962."

The disinformed "no nukes" critics of nuclear energy never bother to ask:  just WHAT did this "reactor grade" plutonium come from?  1962 was very early in the development of nuclear power plants (Shippingport had only come on line in December 1957) and there was no non-weapons fuel reprocessing going on in the USA.  It was revealed in 1977 that the material came from the UK, and almost certainly came from the Berkeley MAGNOX reactor which had just started operation in mid-1962.  Given the timeline of irradiation, reprocessing, shipping, fabrication and operations for the test, the plutonium came from fuel which had only been irradiated for a few weeks.  That is the material in the test "device".

That test was widely regarded as unsuccessful (yield less than 20 kT), and there were no further tests.  It had obviously provided the data that was desired:  "reactor grade" plutonium was not suitable for weapons, full stop.

Modern LWR fuel is irradiated for a minimum of 17 months per fuel cycle, and usually runs 3 cycles before replacement.  A high-burnup S-PRISM core would run 26 months per cycle and 4 cycles before replacement at an average burnup 4x as high.  The Pu from any of this fuel is chock-full of heat-generating Pu-238 and spontaneously-fissioning Pu-240 which are totally unsuitable for weapons use, and they cannot be separated chemically.  (They split just fine with fast neutrons, though.)  As Rod Adams concludes:

"Anyone who points to the 1962 test as “proof” that reactor grade material is a proliferation hazard is either uninformed, technically incompetent, misinformed or lying. There is no other choice."

TL;DR:  you can try to make a bomb from this stuff, but it won't work (and you'll probably kill yourself from radiation exposure if you try).

Engineer-Poet
Would you say Nth Korea's nuclear programme has no relevance to its missile programme.

Are you claiming that MISSILES are part of nuclear electric power technology?  Man, have you ever gone off the rails here.

After reading the following expose on the western technologically 'developed' powers in general and specifically NATO in this instance I have trouble understanding who the 'Terrorists' are.

If you think events in Sardinia have anything to do with generating electricity from uranium, you have taken leave of your senses.

Davemart

Here is hydride storage:

'We will be able to take energy generated through solar panels and store it as hydrogen in a very dense form, so one major advantage of our hydrogen batteries is that they take up less space and are safer than the lithium-ion batteries used in many homes today. We can actually store about seven times more energy than the current systems.

This means that in a residential scenario, people will be able to store a lot more energy using the same footprint as Tesla batteries, to potentially power their home, charge their cars and still have excess to sell back to the grid.'

https://www.greencarcongress.com/2019/03/20190320-unsw.html

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