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Hydrogen Green Fuel Comes A Step Closer
2005 08 06

By Roger Highfield | The Telegraph - UK

The dream of using hydrogen, the most plentiful element in the universe, as a green fuel moved a step closer yesterday with the announcement that it can be made with the help of sunlight.

Nearly all hydrogen used at present is produced by expensive processes that require the burning of polluting fossil fuels.

Now the Weizmann Institute of Science, in Israel, has tested the environmentally friendly solar method on a large scale.

The results of its experiments will be reported in Orlando, Florida, next week to the world congress of the International Solar Energy Society.

The institute, working with colleagues in Switzerland, France and Sweden on the EU-backed project, used sunlight to heat a metal ore, such as zinc oxide, to about 1,200 Celsius in the presence of charcoal.

This split the ore, releasing oxygen and creating gaseous zinc, which was then condensed to a powder. The powder was later allowed to react with water, yielding hydrogen to be used as fuel and zinc oxide, which was recycled in the solar plant.

Michael Epstein, of the institute, said: "The success of our experiments brings industrial use closer."

He said he foresaw the building of a commercial plant in six to eight years.

The process generates no pollution and the resultant zinc can be easily stored, transported and converted to hydrogen on demand. In addition, the zinc can be used directly, for example, in zinc-air batteries, which serve as efficient converters of chemical to electrical energy.

So the method offers a way of storing solar energy in chemical form and releasing it as it is needed.

The recent summit of G8 leaders at Gleneagles, Perthshire, pledged to encourage co-operation on technology research, including hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles.

Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.

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