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New device can generate power from polluted air

Monday, May 8, 2017,19:01 IST By anju A A A

London | Scientists have developed a simple device that purifies air and, at the same time, generates power when exposed to light.

The advance by researchers from the University of Antwerp and KU Leuven in Belgium caters to two major social needs: clean air and alternative energy production.

“We use a small device with two rooms separated by a membrane,” said Sammy Verbruggen, Professor at University of Antwerp.

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,” said Verbruggen.

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.

“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,” said Verbruggen.

The device must only be exposed to light, the researchers said.

Their goal is to be able to use sunlight, 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 added.

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