The device can filter polluted air and release clean energy

A team of researchers in Belgium creates a device that can “eat” polluted air and “spit” off clean energy in the form of hydrogen.

Researchers at Antwerp and Leuven University have developed a device that purifies contaminated air and produces hydrogen and other by-products. The whole device is activated by light. They publish their findings today on ChemSusChem magazine, according to IFL Science.

The palm-shaped box contains an electrochemical cell that converts organic toxins into hydrogen, using the same process as solar cell technology. However, instead of generating electricity, the device produces energy stored in the form of hydrogen. The process seems complicated but very effective.

“We used a small device with two separate compartments made of diaphragm”, said Professor Sammy Verbruggen, head of the research group. “The air is filtered at one end, while hydrogen is produced at the other end from a decayed product. This hydrogen gas can be stored and used later as a fuel, such as for hydrogen buses”.

“In the past, diaphragm batteries were mainly used to extract hydrogen from water. We now find that it can be applied to pollution air with even higher efficiencies”, said Professor Verbruggen.

Hydrogen can be used as fuel when burning with oxygen, although this process produces carbon dioxide (CO2) and carbon monoxide (CO). By using a hydrogen fuel cell, you can transform the chemical energy of hydrogen into electrical energy, based on the reaction of the positively charged hydrogen ion with the oxidizing agent.

Researchers are looking to increase the size of the device and its potential applications. “We are working on a few centimeters square. At a later stage, we will expand the technology so that the process becomes feasible on an industrial scale. We are also working on ways to improve materials to use more efficient sunlight to trigger reactions”, said Professor Verbruggen.

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