Because the automobile industry is under constant pressure to find a way to better propel cars in a manner that’s less damaging to the environment, scientists and engineers outside the auto industry are looking for ways to improve infrastructure to support new technologies, such as electric vehicles and hydrogen-powered vehicles.
Speaking of which, with everyone realizing the practical limitations of EVs, automakers are either sticking to classic internal-combustion power, or a new future in hydrogen fuel-cells. Hydrogen power has always been viewed as the mecca of renewable energy since the combustion of hydrogen–the most abundant element in the universe–means the addition of oxygen molecules, and the byproduct of adding oxygen to hydrogen in the phase of combustion is water, much in the same way that the act of combustion by adding oxygen to petrochemicals yields carbon dioxide and a range of other toxic substances.
That said, because the yielding result of combusting hydrogen is water, and that hydrogen is super abundant, it seems like an ideal candidate for a renewable, natural fuel. There is one major hurdle however–hydrogen production is extremely expensive to the point where its ends don’t justify the means, cost wise. But thanks to more and more research, the technology appears to be coming more readily available, and thus cheaper.
Engadget as an example writes about researchers at Stanford University, who reportedly found a more efficient and easier way of extracting hydrogen atoms from water molecules using electrolysis. As aforementioned, the current methods of electrolysis are expensive and inefficient because it takes more energy to produce hydrogen than the amount of potential energy from the hydrogen produced.
But researches at Stanford used two identical nickel-iron oxide catalysts rather than two different materials for a cathode and anode setup, which means pulsing electrical currents through these materials, submerged in water, to extract hydrogen. With this finding, Stanford may have actually discovered a breakthrough that could really allow hydrogen fuel production to skyrocket.
Check out their quick sample video of their experiment below.