MIT Creates Virus to Split Water Molecule & Produce Hydrogen Fuel
MIT researchers have devised a method for producing hydrogen fuel using a modified virus to split water molecules. They combine a catalyst of iridium oxide with zinc prophyrins to create wire-like 'scaffolding' to split the H2O molecule efficiently, much the same way that plants use sunlight. To assure the virus structures do not begin to lose their efficiency, a 'microgel matrix' was created to encapsulate the process and keep the alignment steady.
The hydrogen produced by the viruses can be used for hydrogen fuel cells or to produce liquid fuels for vehicles.
Angela Belcher, who lead the MIT research team, explains that the role of the pigments is "to act as an antenna to capture the light and then transfer the energy down the length of the virus, like a wire. The virus is a very efficient harvester of light with these porphyrins attached.”
The next step for the team will be to find a substitute for the iridium which is too expensive for commercial use. Within two years, Belcher anticipates a prototype model of a self-sustaining system that will efficiently split the water molecule for future hydrogen fuel applications.
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Image credit: Dominick Reuter