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Solar Hydrogen

The search for water-splitting materials brightens up

In his 1874 science fiction tale The Mysterious Island, Jules Verne predicted, "Water will be the coal of the future." It is a vision of infinite clean energy available for people to use. More than 30 years ago, Japanese scientists took a seminal step in that direction. With a piece of titanium dioxide and some sunlight, they split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Although researchers have tried to refine the process over the years, nobody has come up with a system that is both efficient and inexpensive enough to produce sufficient hydrogen for use as a clean-burning fuel on the roads, in industry, and at home. Recently, however, researchers have picked up the pace of their pursuit of the ultimate water-splitting system.

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