Reuters - Video

EDITION: U.S. | U.K. | IN

Moments of Innovation

Rust brings boost to solar energy potential: scientists

Friday, Feb 08, 2013 - 03:26

Feb. 8 - Using the power of sunlight, Swiss scientists are developing methods of extracting inexpensive, safely transportable, hydrogen fuel from iron oxide - commonly known as rust. The process essentially converts solar power into hydrogen, vastly increasing the potential of solar energy to serve as a viable renewable energy source across the world. Jim Drury met the scientists behind the research.

▲ Hide Transcript

View Transcript

TV AND WEB RESTRICTIONS**NONE**~ When exposed to a naked flame, hydrogen can be extremely dangerous. But hydrogen's potential as a clean, renewable source of energy is also extremely attractive and laboratories around the world, are looking for ways to store and exploit it safely. Scientists at the EPFL institute in Lausanne, believe they've found one. These are microscopic hydrogen bubbles being produced by an unexpected source - iron oxide, commonly known as rust. The researchers believe molecular hydrogen extraction using iron oxide, sunlight, and water presents an inexpensive eco-friendly solution for storing renewable energy. Ludmilla Steier is one of the EPFL team. SOUNDBITE (English) LUDMILLA STEIER (PRON: STY-ER), PHD STUDENT, SAYING: "Right now it's just actually the air taking the solution of iron acetylacetonate and so combined with the heat it's transformed into iron oxide." The iron oxide is more highly developed than that found on a rusting car. It's nanostructured, enhanced with silicon oxide, and covered with a nanometer-thin layer of aluminium oxide and cobalt oxide. A layer of dye and titanium dioxide lets electrons transferred by the oxide gain sufficient energy to extract molecular hydrogen. The team is working on a variety of methods of extraction. SOUNDBITE (English) KEVIN SIVULA, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF CHEMICAL ENGINEERING AT EPFL, SAYING: "We can take nanoparticles of iron oxide and disperse them in a liquid, making something like a paint which we can just paint onto our substrates, leaving a nanostructured iron oxide behind. In another more efficient way we can deposit iron oxide by essentially smoking it onto the substrate by making very small particles of iron oxide particles in a gas phase and having them hit the substrate we can make high surface area iron oxide, which is precisely doped with the right amount of silicon that we need to have a high-performance electrode." Producing the chemical is done by splitting water into its atomistic components - oxygen and hydrogen. The team says it's a technique that can be used anywhere in the world, solving one of the biggest problems caused by transporting hydrogen - its inherent volatility. PhD student Maurin Cornuz believes the painting method could yield the best results. SOUNDBITE (English) MAURIN CORNUZ (PRON: MOOR-AN CORNOO), PHD STUDENT, SAYING: "We moved into the ink process that allows us much better control for the morphology, the nanostructuring of the electrodes and also can be translated to a roll-to-roll process, so a large-scale deposition." The team believe the system could vastly increase the potential of storing solar energy world-wide. SOUNDBITE (English) KEVIN SIVULA, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF CHEMICAL ENGINEERING AT EPFL, SAYING: "Iron oxide is potentially extremely inexpensive, so it could compete even at a lower level of efficiency. That said, our efficiency being only at one to two percent does need to get up a little bit higher before these devices could be commercial. So to do that we're really digging deep into the science both of the nanostructure of the iron oxide, but also the electrochemical processes that are occurring in the material in order to first determine what the loss processes are and then to make them better." The team is excited about the potential of their research. They say hydrogen power is certain to make an impact in the future.

Rust brings boost to solar energy potential: scientists

Friday, Feb 08, 2013 - 03:26

Top News »

Money »

S&P 500 to new record on improving economy S&P 500 to new record on improving economy

Fri, Aug 29, 2014 - (2:31)

Finding meaning in the S&P 500 2000 mark Finding meaning in the S&P 500 2000 mark

Mon, Aug 25, 2014 - (2:35)

S&P falls back from record high S&P falls back from record high

Fri, Aug 22, 2014 - (1:35)

S&P 500 closes at new high S&P 500 closes at new high

Thu, Aug 21, 2014 - (1:24)

S&P 500 just shy of record S&P 500 just shy of record

Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - (2:23)

Apple hits $100 a share Apple hits $100 a share

Tue, Aug 19, 2014 - (2:06)

Nasdaq closes at 14-year high Nasdaq closes at 14-year high

Mon, Aug 18, 2014 - (2:23)

Putin puts Wall Street in buying mood Putin puts Wall Street in buying mood

Thu, Aug 14, 2014 - (2:10)

The Exchange »

The Exchange: Hot commodity The Exchange: Hot commodity

Wed, Jul 16, 2014 - (9:25)

The Exchange: Constitutional crusade The Exchange: Constitutional crusade

Wed, Jun 25, 2014 - (11:35)

The Exchange: The value of money The Exchange: The value of money

Mon, Jun 02, 2014 - (9:53)

The Exchange: China’s Second Continent The Exchange: China’s Second Continent

Tue, May 27, 2014 - (9:35)

The Exchange: A master of business arts The Exchange: A master of business arts

Thu, May 08, 2014 - (8:24)

The Exchange: America's bankrupt cities The Exchange: America's bankrupt cities

Mon, May 05, 2014 - (8:52)

The Exchange: Let the rocking commence The Exchange: Let the rocking commence

Tue, Apr 08, 2014 - (8:13)

The Exchange: The Moneyball fallacies The Exchange: The Moneyball fallacies

Mon, Mar 24, 2014 - (9:54)

Is doing good a good business? Is doing good a good business?

Mon, Mar 17, 2014 - (7:38)

Reuters Investigates »

Re-homing victim: "I could have been dead" Re-homing victim: "I could have been dead"

Wed, Feb 19, 2014 - (8:24)

Cops and loggers in the Amazon rainforest Cops and loggers in the Amazon rainforest

Fri, Jan 10, 2014 - (4:01)

"Passed around like a dog" "Passed around like a dog"

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 - (6:32)

Adopted, then abandoned online Adopted, then abandoned online

Thu, Aug 29, 2013 - (13:21)

How the DEA keeps its secrets secret How the DEA keeps its secrets secret

Mon, Aug 05, 2013 - (1:36)

How education lost its role as the great equalizer - Reuters Investigates How education lost its role as the great...

Mon, Dec 17, 2012 - (7:52)

Jihad Jane: From abused child to American jihadist - Reuters Investigates Jihad Jane: From abused child to American...

Sat, Dec 08, 2012 - (10:01)

Jihad Jane: The order to kill - Reuters Investigates Jihad Jane: The order to kill - Reuters...

Sun, Dec 09, 2012 - (10:39)

Moving Pictures »

Images of August Images of August

Fri, Aug 29, 2014 - (1:00)

Burning Together Burning Together

Mon, Sep 01, 2014 - (2:23)

Mending dolls, teddies and hearts Mending dolls, teddies and hearts

Fri, Aug 22, 2014 - (3:12)

"Old timers" sail the Chesapeake Bay "Old timers" sail the Chesapeake Bay

Mon, Aug 11, 2014 - (2:27)

Burned memories Burned memories

Fri, Aug 08, 2014 - (3:02)

Images of July Images of July

Thu, Jul 31, 2014 - (1:20)

World Cup: passion on the pitch World Cup: passion on the pitch

Fri, Jul 11, 2014 - (1:00)

A refugee in America gives back A refugee in America gives back

Wed, Jul 02, 2014 - (3:25)

A long search for refuge A long search for refuge

Fri, Jun 20, 2014 - (3:04)

World Cup: Around the globe in 50 goals World Cup: Around the globe in 50 goals

Fri, Jun 06, 2014 - (1:08)