Scientists double sustainable hydrogen fuel production using new method

1 Nov 2019

Image: © photoDiod/

This week in future tech, a European research team has found a way to make twice the amount of sustainable hydrogen fuel from renewables.

Vehicles and industry powered by hydrogen fuel will need the fuel to be produced using renewable electricity if it is to actually benefit the planet in the midst of a climate crisis. Now, researchers from universities in the UK, Portugal, Germany and Hungary have discovered a way to double the amount of hydrogen produced per millivolt of electricity through electrolysis.

The process involves running an electric current through water to split the bonds between hydrogen and oxygen, the former being used for fuel. When the electricity comes from renewable sources, it is considered a zero-emissions fuel because it releases no CO2.

In this latest study, the researchers discovered that electrodes covered with a molybdenum telluride catalyst showed an increase in the amount of hydrogen gas produced when a specific pattern of high-current pulses was applied.

By optimising the pulses of current through the acidic electrolyte, they could reduce the amount of energy needed to make a given amount of hydrogen by nearly 50pc. The researchers now aim to develop AI capable of controlling these pulses for the most efficient hydrogen fuel production possible.

Passive device provides cooling with no electricity

MIT researchers have unveiled a new device that can cool things down in blazing sunlight to 13 degrees Celsius without using any electricity. Publishing their findings to Science Advances, the team described the device as having no moving parts and working off a process called radiative cooling.

This blocks incoming sunlight to keep the device from heating up while efficiently radiating infrared light. Key to the breakthrough is a special kind of insulation made of a polyethylene foam called an aerogel. Marshmallow in texture, it blocks and reflects the visible rays of sunlight so they don’t pass through. However, it is highly transparent to infrared rays that carry heat, allowing them to pass freely outward.

The researchers see such a system being used as a way of keeping fruit and vegetables from spoiling in remote places where refrigeration isn’t available. Furthermore, they think that it could theoretically achieve a temperature reduction of as much as 50 degrees Celsius.

“We were very excited when we saw this material,” said researcher and graduate student Arny Leroy.

Mysterious space plane returns after two-year mission

After spending two years in space for an unknown, classified mission, the US Air Force’s X-37B spacecraft has returned to Earth. According to Ars Technica, the uncrewed craft spent a total of 779 days and 17 hours in space, breaking its own previous record.

With no one knowing what its purpose is, speculation has been rampant. Theories so far have ranged from a craft to swallow up enemy satellites or it being an orbital attack craft.

Despite the secrecy around the project, the US Air Force did comment on its return, saying: “The space plane conducted on-orbit experiments.

“The distinctive ability to test new systems in space and return them to Earth is unique to the X-37B programme and enables the US to more efficiently and effectively develop space capabilities necessary to maintain superiority in the space domain.”

The space plane is expected to launch again some time next year.

LG and Qualcomm partner for in-car entertainment

LG Electronics and Qualcomm are to jointly develop webOS Auto, the former’s in-car entertainment system. Combining the operating system with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Automotive Development Platform, the companies are aiming to shake up the space for cars of the future.

In addition to developing and commercialising a more advanced webOS Auto, LG and Qualcomm will collaborate on a reference platform that LG will unveil in January at CES 2020.

“The work between LG and Qualcomm Technologies builds on the long-established and successful relationship between the two companies, creating a great synergy effect in next-generation automotive software,” said Jim Cathey, senior vice-president and president of global business operations at Qualcomm.

“We are confident that our combined experiences and expertise in developing automotive technologies will aid in delivering the best in-vehicle and next-generation user experiences customers demand.”

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic