Melbourne, June 7 (ANI): Researchers may have found a new alternative for producing clean energy - by using a silver compound to 'split water' into oxygen and hydrogen.
Dr Zhiguo Yi from the Australian National University (ANU) and collaborators in Australia, China and Japan have proven that a simple chemical based on silver, called silver orthophosphate, can produce gaseous oxygen from water when exposed to visible light.
The compound could be used to 'split water' into oxygen and hydrogen, allowing the hydrogen to be used as a clean fuel. Methods used till now to carry out this process have failed till now as they large amounts of electricity.
However, if the compound can break into constituents on being exposed to sunlight, the process might succeed without using any other energy source.
"It is well known that compounds such as the silver halides, used for photographic applications, are not stable under light illumination. The silver orthophosphate we use is no exception," says Yi, who first discovered the new property while working in Japan.
But it was also a potential drawback as stability is important for long time usage.
"On the laboratory scale it seems to work well. We think this is a very important and encouraging first step," says study co-author Professor Ray Withers of the ANU. "But of course if you are going to use it on a large scale there are many questions to answer."
Meanwhile, the researchers also found that silver orthophosphate can be used as a means of cleaning chemical contaminants out of water, again only using sunlight.
"We believe it has got good potential for industrial applications," adds Withers. The research team says they are hoping to work with industrial partners to develop these applications in the near future.
The study is published in the journal Nature Materials. (ANI)