Heating homes and buildings with oil, propane, or natural gas costs a lot of money and pumps a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. How great would it be if there was a solar panel that would convert sunlight into clean burning zero emissions hydrogen to keep us all toasty warm at home and at work?
According to Belgian news source VRT NWS, scientists at KU Leuven, located in Flanders, Belgium, say they have created a solar panel that uses sunlight to make hydrogen from the moisture in the air. It can produce up to 250 liters of hydrogen gas a day. Professor Johan Martens and his team have been working on this for a decade. At first, the amount of hydrogen produced was minuscule but in a recent demonstration on a cloudy day, observers could see large quantities of hydrogen bubbles appear almost as soon as the demonstration panel was rolled into the sunlight.
“It’s actually a unique combination of physics and chemistry,” Martens says. “It the beginning we had 0.1 percent yield and we really had to search for those hydrogen molecules, today you see them coming up in bubbles, so that’s ten years of work, always improving, looking for problems, so you end up with something that can work effectively.” Researcher Jan Rongé adds, “Over an entire year, the panel produces an average of 250 liters per day, which is a world record. Twenty of these panels produce enough heat and electricity to get through the winter in a very well insulated house and still have electricity left over.”
The panels are still a long way from commercial production, but a new prototype will soon be installed at the nearby home of Leen Peeters, an engineer who has turned her home into a living lab where she tests and evaluates energy conservation technologies. Her well insulated house has solar panels that power a solar water heater and a heat pump. It is not connected to the local natural gas supply. Only in the winter months does she use electricity from the grid.