Hydrogen has often been touted as the clean fuel of the future, which can be used to power everything from your zero-emission car to your green home. However, producing hydrogen requires a considerable amount of energy, which not always comes from a clean source. Now researchers at the University at Buffalo in New York have come up with a way to produce a steady supply of hydrogen using just nanoparticles of silicon and water.
The reaction, which happens at room temperature, sees silicon react with water to produce non-toxic silicic acide and hydrogen. This is not the first time silicon is used to produce hydrogen as the reaction is pretty well known. However, till date the reaction is only tried with bulk silicon, which isn’t as efficient and doesn’t offer a large surface area for it to react with water.
The new research features use of 10nm nano-spheres of silicon, which works 1000 times faster than bulk silicon to produce hydrogen. While larger particles clump together and don’t offer the kind of surface that can readily react with water, nanosized silicon maximizes the surface area for the reaction and produces hydrogen without any extra heat and light or electricity. The research team was able to verify their findings by using the produced hydrogen in a small fuel cell to power a fan. The researchers aren’t making any big claims of “free power” for their new findings, but are confident that the technology could eventually be used to power portable electronic devices in situations where water is available and portability is more important than low cost.