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  • Rahul Vijh

Working Towards a Greener Future - HyperSolar's Environment Friendly Hydrogen Generator

"The nation that leads in renewable energy will be the nation that leads the world" - James Cameron

Our demand for energy keeps escalating. The energy sources we depend on currently for heating our homes and fueling our vehicles are choking up the environment by releasing harmful carbon dioxide into it. It’s the need of the hour that we reduce our dependence on the dirty fossil fuels of the past and shift to alternate sources of energy, the development of which will assist in the protection of the environment.

HyperSolar inc. a company headquartered in Santa Barbara, California has been granted patent no CN107075695B, entitled “The artificial photosynthetic battery of more knots of

with raising” by the China National Intellectual Property Administration. The patent comes as a result of HyperSolar inc.’s collaboration with the University of California, Santa Barbara, and is jointly held by both.

HyperSolar previously developed the HyperSolar Gen 1, a technology based on an integrated photoelectrochemical water-splitting device. The device is a solar hydrogen generator that safely separates hydrogen and oxygen. Commercially available silicon solar cells are immersed in water and enclosed in HyperSolar’s proprietary generator. The front side of the solar cell is coated with HyperSolar’s proprietary catalysts for oxidizing water into oxygen, whereas the back side is coated with hydrogen catalysts that reduces protons into hydrogen.

The ‘95 patent talks about the company’s second generation (Gen 2) proprietary design of an independent high-voltage solar hydrogen production device constituting of billions of nanoparticles. The nanoparticle is structured as an autonomous nano-solar cell with catalysts that split water into oxygen and hydrogen. Billions of such nano solar cells are encapsulated in an array inside a square centimeter protective layer that increase the photovoltages (Electromotive force developed by a photosensitive device as a result of an incident radiant energy) of the nanoparticles which results in a higher solar-to-hydrogen efficiency. The nano-sized design of the structure improves the performance of the solar cells by increasing its light collecting capacity. The sub-wavelength ( used to describe an object having dimensions less than the length of the wave it interacts with) nano-structure also results in smaller reflection losses and better light manipulation and/or trapping at sub-wavelength scale.

In its completion, this innovation would serve as the company’s flagship product in their line of hydrogen production units. The light absorbing capacity of the nanoparticle solar cells is high, and can be produced at a lower cost than what it would take to produce the traditional film solar cells. Another advantage of nanoparticles solar cells is that they can be produced through the conventional roll-to-roll process (a process in which electronic devices are created on a roll of flexible plastic or metal foil) which is more cost effective as compared to manufacturing the conventional solar cells.

China dominates the global market for battery powered electric vehicles, and are seeking to be pioneers in hydrogen fueled vehicles as well. In a press conference that took place on March 15, 2019, China’s State Council had proposed to promote the development and construction of fueling stations for hydrogen fuel-cell cars. In contrast to batteries, fuel cells generate electricity when hydrogen interacts with oxygen. The on-board hydrogen tanks used to power the automobile are both lighter, and can hold more energy than a battery. The refueling method remains the same as of the traditional internal combustion engines, taking just minutes for topping the tank, as opposed to battery driven cars that take hours to charge.

The hydrogen fueled cars however, have their own set of challenges that need to be dealt with. Fuel cells are the most expensive components of the car, which is why the hydrogen powered cars could cost up to 7 times more than what you’ll be paying for a battery driven car under the same segment.

While hydrogen is considered to be among the cleaner burning fuels available in the market today, it’s important that we understand that the process used to generate the hydrogen need not be necessary clean. Hydrogen is often generated from fossil fuels including coal, which again is problematic, given that the whole reason why we are exploring alternative fuels is to reduce carbon levels in the environment.

This explains why HyperSolar’s patent is so important. It describes a low cost technology to make environment friendly renewable hydrogen using sunlight and any source of water (including seawater and wastewater).

Today, the world produces almost 50 million tonnes of hydrogen every year, but most of it is produced with the help of fossil fuels, either from reforming natural gas, or electrolysis using electricity produced from petroleum, natural gas, coal, or nuclear. To truly realize its potential, we must produce hydrogen from renewable resources, and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

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