Scientists create solar paint that ‘turns water vapour into fuel’

Scientists have developed a solar paint that will do more than just make your house look good.

Researchers from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, claim they have created a new paint that, with the help of light, can absorb water vapour and split it to produce hydrogen, which can be used as fuel.

Hydrogen fuel cells are used in certain cars and by US space agency Nasa to launch space shuttles. They are seen as an eco-friendly alternative to fossil fuels.

The researchers say their solar paint combines titanium oxide, which is already used in many wall paints, with a new compound called synthetic molybdenum-sulphide.

This synthetic chemical not only absorbs moisture (much like silica gel), but also acts as a semiconductor and a catalyst that helps water split into hydrogen and oxygen.

“We found that mixing the compound with titanium oxide particles leads to a sunlight-absorbing paint that produces hydrogen fuel from solar energy and moist air,” RMIT lead researcher Dr Torben Daeneke said.

“Titanium oxide is the white pigment that is already commonly used in wall paint, meaning that the simple addition of the new material can convert a brick wall into energy harvesting and fuel production real estate.”

The solar paint produces hydrogen by absorbing and splitting water (PongsakornJun/Getty Images)

The technology is in proof-of-concept stage at present, but the researchers hope the fuel generated from this paint could be used in fuel cells or even conventional combustion engines in the future.

“Our new development has a big range of advantages,” Daeneke added. “There’s no need for clean or filtered water to feed the system.

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“Any place that has water vapour in the air, even remote areas far from water, can produce fuel.”

The research is published in ACS Nano.