Power Electronics

Professor Demonstrates Solar-Powered Hydrogen Generator

Manoranjan Misra, professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno, recently received a $3-million research grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to continue his work in various forms of renewable energy. Misra's current project focuses on harnessing the sun to generate hydrogen from photoactive material. Hydrogen is one of the cleanest fuels, and studies have shown that it is 33% more efficient than liquid fuels.

Northern Nevada has more than 300 sunny days per year, and could become the perfect hub to generate hydrogen energy, according to Misra. "We can utilize this great energy resource to our advantage to produce hydrogen," Misra said. "We are uniquely positioned in Northern Nevada, as the average energy from the sun is around one kilowatt per square meter area. In Reno it is much higher than that. Because it is so bright and sunny here in Reno, we have in many ways the perfect location for photo-hydrogen generation."

Misra and his research team have created a new hydrogen material that has more than a billion nanotubes, which gives it excellent potential to produce hydrogen from another abundant resource, water. Misra's small-scale hydrogen generation system, located in the Laxalt Mineral Research Building, produces the material through an electrochemical process from applied ultrasonic waves.

"We are currently using simulated solar light in the lab," Misra said, "and we are finding our system to be a good and robust way to facilitate the movement of electrons by the incident light to produce hydrogen from water." By the end of the decade, Misra estimates that the system could grow to a more industrial-sized scale.

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