It draws moisture from the air, splitting it into oxygen and hydrogen, the cleanest source of energy
Researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) in Melbourne have created a solar paint that can be used to produce endless amounts of clean energy. The revolutionary paint contains a recently-developed compound that can absorb water vapor and split it to generate hydrogen, which can be stored and then used as a clean fuel source. This new material, called synthetic molybdenum-sulphide, acts, looks and feels like silica gel â€” commonly used in sachets to absorb moisture and keep food, electronics, and medicine dry. However, it also has the ability to act like a semiconductor, triggering chemical reactions that split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Theoretically, the solar paint could be applied or sprayed onto any surface where water vapor is concentrated, and even evaporated moisture from salty or waste water would work with it. Their research, titled "Solar paint offers endless energy from water vapor: Compound catalyses splitting of water molecules", was published last June in Science Daily.
The productâ€™s development seems to be very promising and have grand implications, as hydrogen is the cleanest source of energy â€“turning into water when burnt- and it can be used in fuel cells in addition to conventional combustion engines as an alternative to fossil fuels. It can be used at any location that has water vapor in the air â€” including remote areas, and there is no need for clean or filtered water to feed the system. Lead researcher Dr. Torben Daeneke elaborating on the invention, said: â€œWe found that mixing the compound with titanium oxide particles leads to a sunlight-absorbing paint that produces hydrogen fuel from solar energy and moist air.â€ In fact, because titanium oxide is the same white pigment commonly used in wall paint, its combination with the new material can â€œconvert a brick wall into an energy harvesting and fuel production real estate,â€ he added. His colleague Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh pointed out that â€˜it can also be used in very dry but hot climates near oceans. The sea water is evaporated by the hot sunlight and the vapor can then be absorbed to produce fuel. This is an extraordinary concept â€” making fuel from the sun and water vapor in the air.â€ Daeneke envisions that the paint could one day be used in conjunction with other renewable energy technologies. â€œPhotocatalytic paints may find application in multiple settings, one obvious one could be the local production of hydrogen as an energy carrier, side by side with photovoltaics generating renewable electricity. However, further steps are necessary in order to fully see the scope of this technology. For example, our next targets are to incorporate this system together with gas separation membranes that will allow selectively harvesting and storing the produced hydrogen.â€
Distinguished Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh and Dr Torben Daeneke with a pot of solar paint and a piece of glass with the paint applied.