New device turns dirty air into energy

The new device features two chambers and membrane. Air is purified in one chamber while hydrogen gas is produced in the other. Photo by University of Leuven/University of Antwerp

May 8 (UPI) — A team of Belgian scientists have developed a new device capable of generating power while cleaning polluted air.

The device, which must be exposed to sunlight to function, features two chambers separated by a single membrane. The air is cleaned on one side, while contaminants are converted into hydrogen gas on the other.

“This hydrogen gas can be stored and used later as fuel, as is already being done in some hydrogen buses, for example,” Sammy Verbruggen, a professor at the University of Antwerp, said in a news release.

The membrane is the device’s most novel and essential component. It’s comprised of a combination of special nano materials, the scientists say.

“These catalysts are capable of producing hydrogen gas and breaking down air pollution,” Verbruggen said. “In the past, these cells were mostly used to extract hydrogen from water. We have now discovered that this is also possible, and even more efficient, with polluted air.”

Researchers say their device functions similarly to a solar panel. Both use sunlight to trigger energy-generating chemical reactions.

Verbruggen and his colleagues are currently working to scale up their technology for industrial use. They are also working to improve the device’s efficiency. Researchers described their device in the journal ChemSusChem.

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