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Hydrogen fuel edges a step closer

Chemical setup creates clean-burning gas

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2:04pm, November 8, 2012

Making hydrogen gas in water just got a little easier. The discovery may lead to inexpensive, practical means of harvesting sunlight to create clean-burning hydrogen for powering cars or generating electricity.

Scientists would like to mimic plant photosynthesis, which harvests sunlight and splits water molecules to create fuel. It sounds simple, but even in plants the task is a highly orchestrated set of reactions, with multiple players acting in multiple places. So researchers often tackle one half of photosynthesis at a time.

The new study, published online November 8 in Science, focuses on the light-harvesting side of the equation. The researchers, from the University of Rochester in New York, created tiny particles of cadmium and selenium that spit out electrons when hit with light. The team also needed a catalyst to pass those electrons to hydrogen ions, which would combine into the useful gas H2.

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