BUFFALO, N.Y. — Super-small particles of silicon react with water to produce hydrogen almost instantaneously, according to University at Buffalo researchers.
In a series of experiments, the scientists created spherical silicon particles about 10 nanometers in diameter. When combined with water, these particles reacted to form silicic acid (a nontoxic byproduct) and hydrogen — a potential source of energy for fuel cells.
The reaction didn’t require any light, heat or electricity, and also created hydrogen about 150 times faster than similar reactions using silicon particles 100 nanometers wide, and 1,000 times faster than bulk silicon, according to the study.
The findings appeared online in Nano Letters on Jan. 14. The scientists were able to verify that the hydrogen they made was relatively pure by testing it successfully in a small fuel cell that powered a fan.
“When it comes to splitting water to produce hydrogen, nanosized silicon may be better than more obvious choices that people have studied for a while, such as aluminum,” said researcher Mark T. Swihart, UB professor of chemical and biological engineering and director of the university’s Strategic Strength in Integrated Nanostructured Systems.
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