The paint contains a recently-developed compound that looks and feels like silica gel — commonly used in sachets to absorb moisture and keep food, electronics, and medicine dry — but acts like a semiconductor. Additionally, the synthetic molybdenum-sulphide material catalysis the splitting of water atoms into hydrogen and oxygen.
The researchers’ discovery was recently published in Science Daily. Lead researcher Dr. Torben Daeneke elaborated on the invention, saying, “We found that mixing the compound with titanium oxide particles leads to a sunlight-absorbing paint that produces hydrogen fuel from solar energy and moist air.”
According to colleague Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh, hydrogen is the cleanest source of energy on the planet and can be used in fuel cells in addition to conventional combustion engines as an alternative to fossil fuels. Because of this, it is accurate to say that the development of the solar paint will have grand implications.
In fact, because Titanium oxide is the same white pigment commonly found in wall paint when it is combined with the new material, the solar paint can “convert a brick wall into an energy harvesting and fuel production real estate,” said Daeneke. This means there is no need for filtered or clean water to feed the system. And, any location that has water vapor in the air — including remote areas — can produce fuel.
“This system can also be used in very dry but hot climates near oceans. The sea water is evaporated by the hot sunlight and the vapor can then be absorbed to produce fuel,” said Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh. “This is an extraordinary concept — making fuel from the sun and water vapor in the air.”