Researchers Develop Device That Purifies Air, Produce Energy Simultaneously

June 7th, 2017 at 2:19 pm

Researchers in Belgium has developed a device that can both purify the air as well as produce energy at the same time. This small innovation has the potential for making a big impact in solving air pollution. The said device uses sunlight in order to purify polluted air and produce hydrogen gas at the same time, fuel that can be stored and used for power.

According to Sammy Verbruggen, a professor of bioscience engineering at the University of Antwerp, “We couple both  processes together in one device, hydrogen production on one side and air purification on the other side.”

Verbuggen works with two groups of researchers who have been working on both processes for several years. A team from the University of Antwerp has been working with trying to comb light energy with nanomaterials in order to purify air. Another team from the University of Leuven has been working on using a tiny membrane in order to separate hydrogen from water. Both teams are also focusing on  removing volatile organic compounds or VOC molecules from the air, which is produced by a number of different chemicals found in a number of common products used daily. These polluting molecules can be found in the air in enclosed buildings with poor ventilation, such as residential high rises and factories that use chemicals known to produce VOC’s.

The prototype device is made up of a square with tubes at both sides. One side of the tube delivers polluted air into the device. There is a transparent window that covers a membrane treated with a light-activated catalyst. When polluted air and light meet at the membrane, the VOC’s are torn apart by the catalyst. The process also sets protons free that go through the membrane and collected on the other side. It then meets with a platinum catalyst that coverts them to hydrogen gas. The purified air meanwhile exits through the second tube.

With the prototype, Verbuggen and his colleagues were able to purify air and create hydrogen gas from a variety of organic compounds such as ethanol, methanol and acetic acid. According to Verbuggen, a possible application of this new device are for industries that produce a stream of waste regularly, such as paint and textile manufacturers.

“You can purify the waste streams so that they meet their environmental quota and at the same time recover the energy that was stored in those molecules. The gas produced could be used to power the lights or other machines in the factory,” Verbruggen further added.

Source: Live Science

Image Credit: UAntwerp/KU Leuven