Researcher Creates Water Splitting Photocatalyst Then Takes U Turn

One of the advantages of using a photocatalyst for creating hydrogen is that the only things needed are sunlight, water and the photocatalyst itself. And, if created correctly, the photocatalyst won’t degrade over time.

On August 31, 2011 I wrote about how the University of Kentucky had created a title="cheap semiconductor photocatalyst" href="" target="_blank">cheap semiconductor photocatalyst that uses sunlight to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The main point is to create large amounts of hydrogen on a commercial scale to be used in the transportation industry.

Now a Kansas State University graduate student is doing something similar by creating a photocatalyst that will use sunlight to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. But, creating hydrogen is not the end game in this project. The creation of “solar gasoline” is the goal.

According to title="Lab Manager Magazine" href="" target="_blank">Lab Manager Magazine, “To make solar gasoline, sunlight is channeled into a tank of water that contains photocatalysts. The sunlight triggers the photocatalysts to react with the water. This reaction causes the water to split into hydrogen and oxygen. When the hydrogen is combined with carbon monoxide it forms a synthetic gas – called syngas – that is the basic building block in fossil fuel and can be used to power cars.”

Okay, so what am I missing here? You’re a young scientist who has just developed a photocatalyst to create hydrogen using sunlight and water. This is the final result that many other scientists and researchers are looking for while doing similar experiments.

Why add carbon monoxide to the pure hydrogen to create syngas and call it solar gasoline? Burning hydrogen is zero emissions. Burning syngas is not. I don’t get the logic here. While we’re in the process of creating our syngas why not throw in a pinch of carbon dioxide, NOx and some particulate matter to emulate traditional gasoline.

Hydrogen should be the end game here. How hard can it be to simply skip that step when you’re supposed to add carbon monoxide to the process?

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