I know it is April 1 and the traditional day for publishing a nonsense or “non-science” article.
But this is not one of them. So no April Fools.
Two chemistry professors, Curtis Berlinguette and Simon Trudel, at the University of Calgary have published a paper in the journal Science in the last week in which they describe their discovery, a low-cost catalyst that can split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The catalyst contains a combination of iron, cobalt and nickel which when exposed to a light source decomposes the water into its base components.
The professors have formed a new start up company, FireWater Fuel, to commercialize their invention. On their website they tell the story of the value of hydrogen as an energy source, that is, a single kilogram of hydrogen contains three times the energy of an equivalent amount of gasoline. So it makes sense to be looking at hydrogen even though up until now the cost of releasing that energy has always been prohibitive.
That’s why FireWater’s invention is so significant. The catalyst is cheap to produce and has significant potential for use in many different applications.
Initially the company intends to produce an electrolyzer that generates hydrogen for energy storage that when combined with wind farms or solar power arrays will provide storage to support continuous energy production when the wind doesn’t blow or the Sun doesn’t shine.
FireWater also sees its technology as useful for inexpensive hydrogen fuel cells in electric vehicles.
It can also be used to convert sequestered CO2 into liquid fuels.
A freezer-sized electrolyzer trademarked under the name FFCat is planned for release on the market in 2015. The electrolyzer will convert a few liters of water per day into electricity for domestic consumers. Is this the beginning of the hydrogen revolution? Maybe. We’ll keep watching and reporting.