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These Solar Rigs Use Sunlight And Seawater To Create Hydrogen Fuel

By Brian Spaen

Hydrogen remains a controversial renewable energy as producing the gas releases carbon dioxide, but scientists continue to find ways around that. The University of Central Florida was able to efficiently and cheaply generate hydrogen from seawater with nanomaterial that captures the sun’s energy. A recent study from Columbia also uses seawater and sunlight, but takes the carbon emissions out completely in the process.

Led by Daniel Esposito, an assistant professor in the Columbia Engineering department, his group of scientists have been able to create floating rig that goes through water electrolysis. It’s a process that separates oxygen and hydrogen with electricity from a solar photovoltaic source. While hydrogen gas only produces water when burned itself, much of it is currently produced with natural gas that emits carbon.

There have been attempts to capture these emissions, such as startup FuelCell Energy’s generators that are geared toward microgrids. However, Esposito and his team have found a different approach that doesn’t use natural gas. Mimicking the design of an oil rig, this floating device has solar panels that powers the process of water electrolysis instead.