Photovoltaic (commonly called PV) panels convert sunlight into electricity and were first developed in 1839. When radiation strikes the surface of a PV panel there is a direct conversion of energy on the atomic level to electricity with an efficiency between 8 percent and 45 percent depending on the quality of PV modules. Electrolysis, discovered by William Nicholson, is the method of applying an electrical current (DC) to a molecular compound to cause a chemical reaction. Electrolysis can be used to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. Microelectromechanical system, or MEMS, is the general term used for micron- to nano-scale devices and structures constructed by semiconductor fabrication techniques.
This innovation is a method that generates hydrogen fuel by using electrolysis powered by PV cells. Since the construction of the device is based on semiconductor processes, the invention is scalable in size and production, with equivalent cost reduction. MEMS actuators can be added to allow for hydrogen storage and release. The basic concept is that a large number of these devices can be placed in a liquid medium such as a body of water. The sun provides the fuel from the PV modules, and the system creates hydrogen. The amount of hydrogen produced by each device is small, but when a large number of devices are working in unison the system can produce significant amounts of fuel.
- PV-powered hydrogen production
- Scalable size
- Can store hydrogen on device
- Patent No., 8,697,979 available for license
- Potential for collaboration with Navy researchers