Tiny, light-powered device sucks in polluted air, churns out hydrogen power

air purifier produces hydrogen gas pollutedpower
UAntwerp and KU Leuven
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could solve two problems facing humanity with a resource that’s practically inexhaustible? Let’s say, for example, a device could turn air pollution into energy using only sunlight. Wouldn’t that be great?

Researchers at the University of Antwerp and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven) may be onto just that. The team has developed a small device that purifies air on one side and produces hydrogen gas on the other. All it takes is a bit of light to power the process.

The device spawned out of a discovery at KU Leuven, where researchers realized they didn’t need clean liquid water to create hydrogen gas. Their small device could instead pull water molecules directly from the air. Taking that one step further, Sammy Verbruggen and his team began to use polluted air, which, he told Digital Trends, “seems to work even better.”

Basically, what the engineers did was separate two primary reactions by a middle membrane. “On one side you have the purification of air by converting small organic molecules to less harmful compounds using a nano-material that is activated by light,” Verbruggen explained. Hydrogen atoms split from those molecules, pass through the middle membrane, and react to H2 gas on the other side. This hydrogen can be stored and used later as fuel for vehicles like buses or rockets.

The more pollution, the more hydrogen gas is produced. “In that way the application potential of this technology is probably most evident in industries that cope with heavily loaded waste gas streams,” Verbruggen said. “The paint and textile industry, or other activities that involve large quantities of organic solvents, are some of the examples that immediately come to mind.”

In its current form the device is only a few square centimeters and uses artificial light to power the reaction, so the researchers now hope to scale it up for industrial applications and tweak it to work with sunlight.

A paper detailing their study was recently published in the journal ChemSusChem.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: heat-powered watches, phone cases with reflexes

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Outdoors

The best battery packs and power stations for use in the outdoors

If you want to keep your smartphones, tablets, and other devices charged while camping int he backcountry these battery packs and portable power stations are rugged enough to survive while providing plenty of power too.
Cars

With 341 horsepower, the WRX STI S209 is the most powerful Subaru ever

The Subaru WRX STI S209 is the latest in a series of special editions that have never been sold in the United States before. The 341-horsepower pocket rocket debuts at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show.
Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…
Emerging Tech

Want to know which drones are flying near you? There’s an app for that

Want to know what that mysterious drone buzzing over your head is up to? A new system developed by AirMap, Google Wing, and Kittyhawk.io could soon tell you -- via a map on your phone.
Emerging Tech

A Japanese hotel fires half its robot staff for being bad at their jobs

Japan’s oddball Henn na Hotel has fired half of its 243 robot staff. The reason? Because these labor-saving machines turned out to be causing way more problems than they were solving.
Emerging Tech

CERN plans to build a massive particle collider that dwarfs the LHC

CERN already has the world's biggest particle accelerator. Now it wants a bigger one. Meet the 9 billion euro Future Circular Collider that will allow physicists to extend their study of the universe and matter at the smallest level.
Emerging Tech

Forget fireworks. Japan will soon have artificial meteor showers on tap

Tokyo-based startup Astro Live Experiences is preparing to launch its first artificial meteor shower over Japan, serving as a showcase of its prowess in the space entertainment sector.
Cars

Robomart’s self-driving grocery store is like Amazon Go on wheels

Robomart's driverless vehicle is like an Amazon Go store on wheels, with sensors tracking what you grab from the shelves. If you don't want to shop online or visit the grocery store yourself, Robomart will bring the store to you.
Emerging Tech

Glowing space billboards could show ads in the night sky

Look up at the night sky in 2020 and you might see an ad for McDonald's floating among the stars. A Russian startup is working on a project that uses a constellation of small satellites in low-Earth orbit to create glowing ads.
Emerging Tech

New brainwave reader tells teachers if students are concentrating

Massachusetts-based startup BrainCo has developed brainwave-reading headbands which can reportedly help reveal if students are concentrating in class. Here's how they're being used.
Emerging Tech

Fears about kids’ screen use may have been overblown, Oxford researchers find

Many people take it as gospel that digital technologies are harmful to young people’s mental health. But is this true? A recent study from the University of Oxford takes a closer look.
Emerging Tech

Meet Wiliot, a battery-less Bluetooth chip that pulls power from thin air

A tiny chip from a semiconductor company called Wiliot could harvest energy out of thin air, the company claims. No battery needed. The paper-thin device pulls power from ambient radio frequencies like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cell signals.
Emerging Tech

Hexbot is a modular robot arm that does everything from drawing to playing chess

Who wouldn’t want their own personal robot arm to do everything from laser engraving to competing against you in a game of chess? That's what Hexbot, a new modular robot, promises to deliver.