Pollution-free cars on the way as TCD scientists make breakthrough

CRANN, the Nanoscience Institute believe their new approach to producing Hydrogen fuel could help to revolutionise transport.

A team at Trinity College Dublin have found a new way of producing an emissions-free fuel that's 90 per cent cheaper than existing methods.

Researchers at the CRANN, the Nanoscience Institute at the university, believe their new approach to producing Hydrogen, could help to herald a new era in transport.

The discover could help the development of a real alternative to fossil fuels, perhaps the greatest technological challenge faced by humanity.

Hydrogen-fueled vehicles have been around for many years, but CRANN have developed a material which enhances the splitting of water at a very low energy cost using earth abundant raw materials.

This new material performs as well as the world’s most effective material for water splitting (which is the scarce and expensive ruthenium oxide) but is much less expensive.

Professor Mike Lyons says reducing the cost is a real breakthrough. 

"Hydrogen can be generated at the forecourt, it can be pumped just like petrol, and filled you can go for perhaps 4-500 miles. So it really is a credible alternative to petrol."

This is a significant breakthrough, as it means that an energy efficient production of pure hydrogen is now possible using renewable energy sources which will potentially accelerate adoption of hydrogen as a fuel in energy efficient transportation. 

Hydrogen has been described as the ultimate clean energy source, as it is does not cause pollution, and would satisfy much of the energy requirements of our society. 

But the widespread uptake of hydrogen as a fuel has been hampered by the lack of low cost, earth abundant materials which split the water, in an economically efficient manner.

The CRANN breakthrough has been published in the prestigious international journal ACS Catalysis, and shows that the ruthenium content can be reduced by as much as 90% and substituted with manganese oxide, an abundant resource.

"We are very excited about this very significant breakthrough," Prof Lyons added.

"The adoption of this material in industry will mean that electrochemical hydrogen generation using photo (electrolysis) is now far more economically viable and will hasten adoption of hydrogen as a fuel in energy efficient transportation.

"It should be noted that this discovery could only have been accomplished using the world class characterization facilities and opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration available within the School of Chemistry and CRANN.”

"Our disruptive materials breakthrough is momentous as it means much more energetically efficient and more economical hydrogen energy. This means that the cost of producing hydrogen via water electrolysis will be significantly reduced, which will result in a more rapid uptake of hydrogen as an automotive fuel.”