The scientific team, from the University of Cambridge (UK), has produced hydrogen using pH neutral water and at room temperature. The method is described as a 'water splitting process' (water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen).
According to the University's research brief
, to do requires a catalyst. Scientists have hitherto struggled to find a catalyst that works at room temperature, in normal air (aerobic conditions), and which is relatively inexpensive. The only material which ticked the first two boxes was platinum, however the metal is prohibitively expensive.
The Cambridge University team has, according to The Engineer
, overcome this by sourcing a form of cobalt, which meets all three of the criteria for an effectively catalyst.
The advantage of generating hydrogen is that it can be used as a fuel in combination with fuel cells
to power cars and buses. Such fuel cells are currently in use on a small scale. However, the hydrogen used in them is generated from fossil fuels and it produces the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide as a by-product.
The science team was led by Dr Erwin Reisner
. The implications of the research are that 'green' hydrogen can potentially be produced in abundance and cheaply from one natural resource the planet is unlikely to run out of: water.