Hydrogen Fuel from Water using Crystals & Sound
It has long been understood that every water molecule holds a great potential for producing clean energy, but getting the molecules to separate easily so engineers can harvest the power of the hydrogen atom safely has been the challenge. Assistant Professor Huifang Xu of the Geoscience department at the University of Wisconsin announced that his team has developed a new method of tackling this problem. He immerses zinc oxide crystals in water and subjects them to sound waves, such as heavy machinery or traffic, to set up vibrations that excite the crystals which causes the water to 'rip apart,' effectively releasing hydrogen gas.
Until now, conventional piezoelectric materials have not been efficient at utilizing sound energy, only achieving a conversion rate of 10 percent. But Xu avoided the difficulty of making the water drive the current, and instead relies on the crystals' reaction to the sound vibrations to generate the current. "This is like a free lunch," explained Xu. "You are getting energy from the environment just like solar cells capture energy from the sun."
Other technologies using piezoelectric energy: