Researchers from the University of Antwerp and KU Leuven (University of Leuven) in Belgium have developed a process that purifies air and, at the same time, generates power. The device requires only to be exposed to light in order to function, so the research is seen as responding to two major social needs — clean air and alternative energy production. .
“We use a small device with two rooms separated by a membrane," said the university's Professor Sammy Verbruggen. “Air is purified on one side, while on the other side hydrogen gas is produced from a part of the degradation products. This hydrogen gas can be stored and used later as fuel, as is already being done in some hydrogen buses, for example. "
The heart of this development lies at the membrane level, where the researchers use specific nanomaterials. Says Prof. Verbruggen: “These catalysts are capable of producing hydrogen gas and breaking down air pollution. 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.”
It seems to be a complex process, but the university says it is not — the device needs only to be exposed to light. The researchers’ goal is to be able to use sunlight, as the processes underlying the technology are similar to those found in solar panels. The difference here is that electricity is not generated directly, but rather that air is purified while the generated power is stored as hydrogen gas.