Graphene ‘Wonder Material’ Can Be Used to Generate Fuel and Electricity Out Of Thin Air

Usman Pirzada
Posted Nov 30, 2014
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If there is something that a material out there can do, Graphene can probably do it better. From better capacitors to processors, to tensile strength, heck even body armor, Graphene is the ‘wonder material’ of this era. Even with all this historical success, Graphene still managed to raise my eyebrows; because it turns out siphoning fuel out of thin air is just another walk in the park for it.

Intel Graphene TransistorsAn image of a graphene super capacitor @unkown

Graphene based air filters can theoretically pump hydrogen fuel out of air

Graphene is unarguably one of the greatest discoveries of the decade, but it was not until 2010 that progress on it really started gaining exponential traction.  It all started with the isolation of the first sheet of Graphene, something that won the scientists involved, a nobel prize. This experiment was conducted using pencils and a bunch of tape. And no I am not kidding when I say that you can easily reproduce the experiment in your house by following tutorials available online (although be very careful with the isolated sheet of graphene since, though it is in very minute quantities, it is toxic and highly reactive).

So how exactly does Graphene enable the production of usable fuel from thin air you ask? Well, it works because of the simple fact that Graphene is technically a 2 dimensional material (on the macro scale, not on the particular scale) which means that protons can pass through it. Since a Hydrogen stripped of its electron is nothing more than a positively charged proton anyways, you can theoretically get hydrogen (positively charged) by simply pumping air through graphene sheets. The implications of that are mind bending because this means that the technology to run cars on air now exists (for example).

“We are very excited about this result because it opens a whole new area of promising applications for graphene in clean energy harvesting and hydrogen-based technologies,” the co-author of the study, Marcelo Lozada-Hidalgo of Manchester University, told Reuters. The team was led by Andre Geim – the scientist who was involved in first isolating graphene back in 2004 – and their discovery is just one of many revolutionary property displayed by the material.

However, getting hydrogen out of it is a bit more complicated than just waving about graphene sheets. Ideally you would need to heat the material up after coating it in certain nanoparticles (not really something you can buy at th local grocery shop) such as platinum which act as catalysts. But the end result is the same, a generator pumping electricity out of thin air is now a possibility (not sure how this is going to sit with the controlling interests of the power mafia though). It’s also impermeable to gases and liquids, and the smallest of atoms while being 200 times stronger than steel. The impermeability characteristic means that it can be used to counter the effects of fuel cell poisoning making them more (if not completely) efficient. Either way, just one of the many things that are pretty damn exciting about the new wonder material.

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