HyperSolar claims to have reached a major milestone in its quest to produce hydrogen using solar energy.
The startup hopes to produce hydrogen gas from water using artificial photosynthesis, on a commercial scale.
To do that, it has worked to achieve the 1.5 volts it views as the practical voltage needed for commercial hydrogen production.
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And shortly after surpassing 1.4 volts, HyperSolar says it has reached that threshold.
If this process becomes commercially viable, it could vastly reduce the carbon footprint of hydrogen fuel cell cars, which are about to become a more significant presence on U.S. roads.
The Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell is already available in California, and will soon be followed by the Toyota Mirai and a new Honda model as well.
University of Iowa researchers working with HyperSolar on hydrogen production via photosynthesis
A byproduct of reforming hydrogen from natural gas or other fossil fuels is carbon dioxide--a greenhouse gas.
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But HyperSolar claims it can produce hydrogen from water, using only sunlight.
The company has been working with a research team at the University of Iowa to refine the process.
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Researchers achieved 1.4 volts in July, and plan to continue increasing voltage and seeking out efficiency gains.
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That includes combining previous work in cutting the cost to solar cells with a more efficient catalysts to produce a self-contained hydrogen-generation unit.
Researchers hope to identify materials that interface with current hydrogen-production catalysts to improve the efficiency of the sunlight-based generation process.
2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell, 2016 Toyota Mirai at hydrogen fueling station, Fountain Valley, CA
This will allow for the use of cheaper catalysts, without significant loss in hydrogen-production efficiency, HyperSolar says.
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"We are focused on identifying the next steps for the technology that will make it possible for us to scale up to make a commercial technology that can produce hydrogen fuel at or near the point of distribution, using only water and sunlight," said HyperSolar CEO Tim Young.
In addition to the research team at the University of Iowa, HyperSolar also works with researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara.