Public Release: 

Ben-Gurion University researchers achieve breakthrough in process to produce hydrogen fuel

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Ben-Gurion University Researchers Achieve Breakthrough in Process to Produce Hydrogen Fuel From Water for Transportation Fuel Using Solar Power

NEW YORK...October 29 - Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and the Technion Israel Institute of Technology researchers have cracked the chemical mechanism that will enable development of a new and more efficient photo-chemical process to produce hydrogen fuel from water, according to a new paper published in Nature Communications.

The team is the first to successfully reveal the fundamental chemical reaction present in solar power that could form the missing link to generate the electricity necessary to accomplish this process. It allows the process to unfold naturally instead of relying on large amounts of man-made energy sources or precious metals to catalyze the reaction. Production of hydrogen does not emit greenhouse gases, but the process has until now required more energy than is generated and as a result has limited commercial viability.

"This discovery could have a significant impact on efforts to replace carbon-based fuels with more environmentally friendly hydrogen fuels," according to the team led by BGU researchers Dr. Arik Yochelis and Dr. Iris Visoly-Fisher and Prof. Avner Rothschild of the Technion. "Car manufacturers seek to develop hydrogen-powered vehicles that are considered efficient and environmentally friendly and unlike electric vehicles, allow for fast refueling and extended mileage."

Hydrogen production for fuel requires splitting water molecules (H2O) into two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. The research reveals a breakthrough toward understanding the mechanism that occurs during the photochemical splitting of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) over iron-oxide photo-electrodes, which involves splitting the photo-oxidation reaction from linear to two sites.

After years of challenging experiments during which Prof. Rothschild's laboratory was unable to overcome the barrier in efficiency, he approached Drs. Yochelis and Visoly-Fisher to collaborate and complete the puzzle.

"Beyond the scientific breakthrough, we have shown that the photo-electrochemical reaction mechanism is related to the family of chemical reactions for which Prof. Gerhard Ertl was awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Chemistry," says Dr. Yochelis of the BGU's Alexandre Yersin Department of Solar Energy and Environmental Physics in the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research. "Our discovery opens new strategies for photochemical processes."

###

The study was funded by research grants from the Israel Ministry of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water, and the Israel Ministry of Science and Technology.

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (AABGU) plays a vital role in sustaining David Ben-Gurion's vision: creating a world-class institution of education and research in the Israeli desert, nurturing the Negev community and sharing the University's expertise locally and around the globe. As Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) looks ahead to turning 50 in 2020, AABGU imagines a future that goes beyond the walls of academia. It is a future where BGU invents a new world and inspires a vision for a stronger Israel and its next generation of leaders. Together with supporters, AABGU will help the University foster excellence in teaching, research and outreach to the communities of the Negev for the next 50 years and beyond. Visit vision.aabgu.org to learn more.

AABGU is headquartered in Manhattan and has nine regional offices throughout the United States. For more information, visit http://www.aabgu.org.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.