Jul 17 2013

Less Natural Gas more PECs

Petroleum is a significant source of energy in the United States. Recently, Natural gas is emerging as a preferred source of energy in the U.S. Both of these energies are not clean and release many harmful materials into the earth’s atmosphere. The U.S. is trying to find feasible ways to use clean energy. Earlier in 2013, President Obama emphasized a national hydrogen fuel cell/fueling infrastructure initiative called H2USA (Casey). Recently, engineers have turned to renewable energy for creating low-cost hydrogen. A breakthrough in the field has caused the creation of a potential low-cost photoelectrochemical cell(PEC) that produces hydrogen in water with a little iron oxide, or rust.HyperSolar Concept Farm

PEC’s use solar energy like photovoltaic cells but do not produce electricity. Instead, they use solar energy to separate water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. Typically, natural gas is used for the energy to produce hydrogen. The replacement of natural gas with solar energy is a significant step into reducing human impact on the environment. PECs could also reduce impact by improving electric cars. These cells could lead to new and cost-effective fuel cells for cars. PECs are considerably cost effective due to their use of iron oxide. Rust is a non-expensive material that could be found in many places and currently is not being used as a resource. The PECs use a one-step system to create hydrogen, which has the potential to be cheaper than multi-step solar energy harnessing systems. Currently in Europe, hydrogen can be produced with photovoltaic cells at a cost of 15 euros per kilo, but the rust-based PEC system has the potential to cost about 5 euros per kilo.

The creation of PECs is also helping solve problems with creating hydrogen separate from energy concerns. In typical fuel cell systems, clean water must be used to create hydrogen. If fuel cells of these types become popular, one could see where problems with clean water supplies might appear. Rust-based PECs is a small step into finding ways to make fuel cells that can create hydrogen with “dirty water” or non-distilled water. A company called HyperSolar already has a designed wastewater process and others have been working on other ways to produce hydrogen with “dirty water.” [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXKgMf0SuEE[/youtube]


HyperSolar has proposed building a network of solar powered hydrogen farms. The company uses PECs in producing hydrogen from water. They must submerge the units in the water for them to work. The company uses a protective coating only on key parts of the PECs and claim they can be submerged in most sources of water: sea water, runoff water, river water, or waste water. Hyper Solar is taking a significant step into the future of hydrogen fuel cells by creating this new technology. Hopefully, with time, the economic cost of building, installing, and maintaining this renewable energy technology will continue to lower, so they can compete with non-sustainable resources for energy.


Casey, T., 2013, Low-Cost Hydrogen Breakthrough Uses Solar Power And Rust, Clean Technica.

HyperSolar, 7/16/2013, http://www.hypersolar.com, HyperSolar Inc., 2012.

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