Researchers in Belgium have developed a device which, when exposed to light, can purify air and at the same time generate power.
“We use a small device with two rooms separated by a membrane”, explained Professor Sammy Verbruggen from the University of Antwerp and KU Leuven (University of Leuven).
“Air is purified on one side, while on the other side hydrogen gas is produced from a part of the degradation products. This hydrogen gas can be stored and used later as fuel, as is already being done in some hydrogen buses, for example,” Verbruggen said.
The heart of the solution lies at the membrane level, where the researchers use specific nanomaterials.
“These catalysts are capable of producing hydrogen gas and breaking down air pollution,” Verbruggen said.
“In the past, these cells were mostly used to extract hydrogen from water. We have now discovered that this is also possible, and even more efficient, with polluted air,” Verbruggen added.
The device must only be exposed to light to function, according to a study published in the journal ChemSusChem.
The researchers said their goal is to be able to use sunlight more efficiently, as the processes underlying the technology are similar to those found in solar panels.
The difference here is that electricity is not generated directly, but rather that air is purified while the generated power is stored as hydrogen gas.
“We are currently working on a scale of only a few square centimetres. At a later stage, we would like to scale up our technology to make the process industrially applicable. We are also working on improving our materials so we can use sunlight more efficiently to trigger the reactions,” Verbruggen said.