Hydrogen production gets greener

Atmos Technologies, based at the STFC Daresbury Laboratory, has developed a new technique for generating hydrogen from seawater using sunlight.

Atmos claims its photovoltaic diodes produce the gas at a fraction of the cost and with a substantially lower carbon footprint than conventional methods. This method means hydrogen fuel cells could be produced at an energy cost that is less than they generate.

Photovoltaic diodes work by using sunlight to generate electrical power, which is applied to two terminals submerged in sea water. The sea water is separated by the electrical power, generating hydrogen at one terminal and oxygen at the other. The oxygen can either be collected or released back into the atmosphere, and the hydrogen is collected and stored.

Production of the photovoltaic power generating diodes involves a new ‘flame spraying’ method which produces photo voltaic power generating diodes with the same efficiencies as current silicon devices, but at substantially lower money and energy costs and with less toxic materials.

Production of traditional silicon power generating diodes consumes 150KW/H of electricity to manufacture 1kg of silicon to be made into power generating devices. The process can involve phosphorous, arsenic and hydro-fluoric acid.

Atmos’ flame spraying method uses no toxic chemicals, does not require clean room conditions and does not generate hard to dispose of toxic waste. The company claims tests show the spraying method uses approximately a sixtieth of the energy required to make conventional elements.