The idea of using solar power to split hydrogen from water is one that many propose will make the hydrogen economy a reality. Naysayers point out that the solar power might be better spent just charging up electric cars or providing power to homes. But, what if there was a better way to use sunlight to extract hydrogen from water - one that didn't involve using solar cells at all. This is what researchers at Penn State University are working on. And, they might not be that far off, "only a few problems away", according to Craig Grimes, who is working on this project. Read more about the project here. According to the article, they may have found an "inexpensive and easily scalable technique for water photoelectrolysis - the splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen using light energy - that could help power the proposed hydrogen economy." They are doing this by "the fabrication of thin films made of self-aligned, vertically oriented titanium iron oxide (Ti-Fe-O) nanotube arrays."
Again, we are not suggesting that anything like a complete "hydrogen economy" will be a reality any time soon, but it would be foolish to completely dismiss hydrogen from our future energy needs. Yes, today most of the hydrogen that is commercially available is recovered from natural gas, but researchers are working on methods like this one from Penn State that could change that.
[Source: Penn State]