Painted Wall as an Energy Plant

A solar paint absorbs water vapor to generate hydrogen- a potent fuel of the future

Painted Wall  as an  Energy Plant

Painted Wall as an Energy Plant

We can paint ourselves into endless energy—that’s the outline of a portrait researchers are sketching at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, where they have developed a solar paint that can absorb water vapor and split it to generate hydrogen—the holy grail of clean energy. The implications of this technology are enormous.


You know those little silica gel sachets that absorb moisture and keep foods, medicines and electronics dry? The paint is gel on steroids.


The new material is molybdenum-sulphide, which grabs moisture from the air and acts as a semi-conductor and catalyst to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen.

Study lead author Dr Torben Daeneke says: “We found that mixing the compound with titanium oxide particles leads to a sunlight-absorbing paint that produces hydrogen fuel from solar energy and moist air. Titanium oxide is the white pigment that is already commonly used in wall paint, meaning that the simple addition of the new material can convert a brick wall into energy harvesting and fuel production real estate. Our new development has a big range of advantages. There’s no need for clean or filtered water to feed the system. Any place that has water vapor in the air, even remote areas far from water, can produce fuel.”

Distinguished Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh offers that hydrogen is the cleanest source of energy and could be used in fuel cells as well as conventional combustion engines as an alternative to fossil fuels.

“This system can also be used in very dry but hot climates near oceans. The sea water is evaporated by the hot sunlight and the vapor can then be absorbed to produce fuel. This is an extraordinary concept—making fuel from the sun and water vapor in the air.”

Torben Daeneke, Nripen Dahr, Paul Atkin, Rhiannon M. Clark, Christopher J. Harrison, Robert Brkljańća, Naresh Pillai, Bao Yue Zhang, Ali Zavabeti, Samuel J. Ippolito, Kyle J. Berean, Jian Zhen Ou, Michael S. Strano, Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh. Surface Water Dependent Properties of Sulfur-Rich Molybdenum Sulfides: Electrolyteless Gas Phase Water Splitting. ACS Nano, 2017; DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.7b01632
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