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New solar cell cuts out the middle man, harvests hydrogen from water


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Some Penn State researchers are taking a cue from nature and have built the first solar cell that can effectively split water to harvest the hydrogen. While the technology and efficiency of electricity-gathering solar cells has been humming on nicely, cells that can pull hydrogen out of water directly (instead of using solar-harvested electricity to do it) have found that the catalysts conducive to separating hydrogen and oxygen are usually pretty good at putting the two gases right back together again. The folks at Penn State have now developed a process that more closely mimics the photosynthesis process in plants, and while we won't pretend to understand all the nitty gritty of dye usage and other such nonsense, we do know that such a system could eventually attain 15% or so efficiency, providing a nice and clean way to gather power for that fuel cell car of the future.

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