A doctoral student in mechanical engineering at the University of Delaware has designed a new type of reactor that produces hydrogen using nothing more than concentrated sunlight, zinc oxide, and water. And best of all, the zinc oxide used by the reactor can be reused, meaning that once the reactor is up and running, it would be self-sustaining.
Koepf will bring his reactor to Switzerland, where it will be tested for the first time at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. In the testing phase, concentrated light equal to the energy of 10,000 suns will be focused on the reactor, bringing the temperature up to about 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Then the zinc oxide will be added, creating a reaction that will convert the powder into zinc vapor. Finally, the zinc will be reacted with water, producing hydrogen.“The idea is to create a small, well-insulated cavity and subject it to highly concentrated sunlight from above,” Koepf explained in a release.
# Hydrogen production HAS been possible without the use of fossil fuels for quite some time. Electrolysis can be powered by photovoltaics just as well as a coal plant.
# That is true, but there was not DIRECT way in doing this. Like the name already says, Electrolysis need electrical energy – which is usually generated by photovoltaic cells. This principle is quite ineffective since a photovoltaic cell only transforms (up to) 25% into electricity and you can imagine that you still loose energy in the process of electrolysis. By doing it directly it might be possible to have a much higher effectiveness!