After 10 years of trial & error, researchers at Belgian’s KU Leuven university claim to have created a hydrogen solar panel that can produce up to 250 liters of hydrogen per day and can convert sunlight and water vapor from the air directly into hydrogen gas with an efficiency of 15%.
The team of Johan Martens, Chemistry Professor at the Faculty of Bioengineering at KUL, has been working on this concept and trying to create a prototype for ten years.
“Sunlight is part of the picture of course, and our panel does look like a solar panel but we prefer to call it a hydrogen panel,” the researchers said.
The team said that the production of hydrogen using their method is more efficient than the more conventional methods of making the gas. For example, one of the previous concepts of Hydrogen production includes the production of electricity through photovoltaic panels that split the water molecule into two parts: hydrogen on one side and oxygen that goes back into the atmosphere. As for hydrogen, it can be stored and reused as electricity via a fuel cell. Evidently, this method of making hydrogen requires a lot of energy.
The prototype developed by Belgian researchers is based on the innovation of using air rather than water for hydrogen production. The air already contains water vapor and the hydrogen panel makes use of this concept on top of using sunlight.
The advantage of the process is that it can even be used in regions with little to no water. The researchers claim that even the desert air holds enough hydrogen for this process to be applicable.
Professor Martens is counting on testing this hydrogen panel for the next two to three years, before its commercialization at the end of this trial period.