Printer Friendly

Soaking up the rays to make fuel.

Soaking up the rays to make fuel

Using natural photosynthesis as a model, scientists have constructed a device that harnesses solar energy for liberating the hydrogen bound in sea water.

In the chloroplasts of green plant cells, this pigment-studded membranes harvest sunlight, which incites some negatively charged electrons to travel to one side of the membrane, leaving regions of positive charge near the other. The separated charges then participate in different chemical reactions -- the building of carbon dioxide into energy-rich compounds such as glucose or the breaking apart of water into molecular oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen then participates in other reactions in independent watery compartments flanking the membrane.

In the May PHOTOCHEMISTRY AND PHOTOBIOLOGY, biophysicist H. Ti Tien of Michigan State University in East Lansing describes a device using features of photosynthetic membranes. In place of the biological membrane, Tien uses a light-absorbing septum made of a thin film of the semiconductor cadmium selenide painted on nickel foil. When excited enough by light, electrons in the semiconductor travel into the nickel where they break sea water into hydroxyl ions and hydrogen, which many chemists envision as a widely used fuel in the future. On the semiconductor side of the septum, electrons from iron-containing compounds dissolved in the sea water flow into the semiconductor to complete the circuit.

Given the limited supplies of fossil fuels and the environmental problems of nuclear power, Tien says, "Sooner or later, we will have to rely on solar energy."
COPYRIGHT 1989 Science Service, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Chemistry; solar energy used to release hydrogen in sea water
Publication:Science News
Date:Jun 10, 1989
Previous Article:Giving neurotransmitters a second wind.
Next Article:Call for stronger ozone protection.

Related Articles
Solar rock: the music world heats up as musicians plug into the sun.
New molecules harness the energy of light.
The Hydrogen Experiment.
Hydrogen as the way toward sustainability.
Using hydrogen as fuel may hurt environment. (Not So Green?).
Tapping sun's light and heat to make hydrogen.
Clean hydrogen fuel from corn?
Flower power.
California drives the future of the automobile: impatience with fossil fuels is shaking California, which is the world's sixth-largest economy and...
The hydrogen house: fueling a dream.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters