Since the effects of climate change have increased exponentially, the fight and race to find sustainable energy alternatives is at an all time high. Whether in electric vehicles or aviation, renewable energy and solar power options, among many other discovered processes to naturally harness energy. All of these options are pushing for the reduction of carbon emissions and the increase in human livelihood. So stacking on top of the many other alternatives, a recently published report stated that researchers from the Drexel University’s College of Engineering, have produced a new nanofilament form of titanium oxide materials that can harness sunlight to fuel molecules as a new source of energy.

The standard fuel source, hydrogen, has been tested time and time again, but in order to harness pure hydrogen from solar energy, the hydrogen needs to be removed from the water molecules it is found within. The process of splitting the hydrogen from water only using sunlight is called photocatalysis. Photocatalysts have been a tested theory for many decades now but high efficiency and sustainability are still very low. So now researchers are looking into other elements that can potentially boost the efficiency and lifespan of the material, enabling it for long-term and commercial usage.

Researchers have found that the titanium oxide counterpart produces higher levels of sustainability and can be stable within water for six months. This newly found process can transform the way we harness energy for commercial use and can finally give a transition from lab to market.

"Titanium-oxide materials have previously demonstrated photocatalytic abilities, so testing our new nanofilaments for this property was a natural part of our work. But we did not expect to find that not only are they photocatalytic, but they are extremely stable and productive catalysts for hydrogen production from water-methanol mixtures," stated Drexel University researcher, Hussein O. Badr, PhD.

The group of researchers tested five versions of the new nanofilament titanium oxide materials, looking for efficiency, sustainability, commercial viability, and finalized low sales cost. During the test—”Each material was submerged in a water-methanol solution and exposed to ultraviolet-visible light produced by a tunable illuminator lamp that mimics the spectrum of the sun. The researchers measured both the amount of hydrogen produced and duration of activity in each reactor assembly, as well as the number of photons from the light that produced hydrogen when they interacted with the catalyst material -- a metric for understanding the catalytic efficiency of each material.”—they found that the new five photocatalysts were more efficient at using sunlight to produce hydrogen than the previous titanium oxide materials. They are furthering their research to understand the inner workings of the material to find better ways of optimization, as well as finding reversal prevention chemical additives.