New hi-tech gadget promises power from polluted air

From the “Chinese are already working on a copy” department:

Air pollution in Shanghai, China.

Researchers from the University of Antwerp and KU Leuven (University of Leuven), Belgium, have succeeded in developing a process that purifies air and, at the same time, generates power. The device need only be exposed to light in order to function.

“We use a small device with two rooms separated by a membrane”, explains professor Sammy Verbruggen (UAntwerp/KU Leuven). “Air is purified on one side, while on the other side hydrogen gas is produced from a part of the degradation products. This hydrogen gas can be stored and used later as fuel, as is already being done in some hydrogen buses, for example. “

In this way, the researchers respond to two major social needs: clean air and alternative energy production. The heart of the solution lies at the membrane level, where the researchers use specific nanomaterials.

“These catalysts are capable of producing hydrogen gas and breaking down air pollution”, explains professor Verbruggen. “In the past, these cells were mostly used to extract hydrogen from water. We have now discovered that this is also possible, and even more efficient, with polluted air.”

The researchers claim this new device needs only polluted air and light in order to purify air and generate power.
CREDIT UAntwerpen and KU Leuven

It seems to be a complex process, but it is not: the device must only be exposed to light. The researchers’ goal is to be able to use sunlight, as the processes underlying the technology are similar to those found in solar panels. The difference here is that electricity is not generated directly, but rather that air is purified while the generated power is stored as hydrogen gas.

“We are currently working on a scale of only a few square centimeters. At a later stage, we would like to scale up our technology to make the process industrially applicable. We are also working on improving our materials so we can use sunlight more efficiently to trigger the reactions. “


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May 9, 2017 7:15 am

Wouldn’t that be the very definition of diminishing returns? Lol.

Reply to  Logoswrench
May 9, 2017 8:11 am

I was trying to come up with an analogy, but this says it all.

Brian Adams
Reply to  RWturner
May 9, 2017 10:15 pm

“Cold Fusion”.

Reply to  Logoswrench
May 9, 2017 8:19 am

LOL exactly……peak pollution is in our future

Janice Moore
Reply to  Logoswrench
May 9, 2017 9:05 am

Lol, indeed, Logos.
Chinese response (to offer to invest in this flim flam)

Reply to  Logoswrench
May 9, 2017 8:32 pm

isn’t that a requirement of all Federal sponsored programs.

Bruce Cobb
May 9, 2017 7:23 am

Looks like it’s from the “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” department.

Reply to  Bruce Cobb
May 9, 2017 2:49 pm

And the “I’ve never heard of the 2nd law of thermodynamics” department.

May 9, 2017 7:27 am

I read something about these light activated catalytic devices years ago. It’s nice to see that they are still working on them.
However getting it to work in a laboratory is a long way away from having a practical application.

Reply to  MarkW
May 9, 2017 8:41 am

Best they take it up to Glasgow and test it over the winter there before they make any claims. Not much sunshine at all up there.

Reply to  HotScot
May 9, 2017 10:28 am

Yes, but they could export their pollution.

Reply to  HotScot
May 9, 2017 12:20 pm

Good point any commercial process that needs sunlight to work is useless, Since it does not work at nighttime or under [cloud] cover during the day the process is intermittent/cyclic and not generally useful in the real world for significant production. Do they understand thermodynamics, there is no free lunch, also the compression and distribution costs for H 2 are enormous and normally require liquefaction for handling which is also costly and energy consuming.. One cannot draw a line around one step of any process to create energy and ignore all the other energy input needs. Not to mention the safety and handling problems with pure Hydrogen.
I worked on a CO 2 capture process from air which works but when one considers the energy to send the air over the membranes, steam to dislodge the CO 2 from the membranes in a cyclic mode, the downstream compression costs and distribution costs and all the other energy input, issues arise for viability except in special circumstances unless there are other free energy sources available which is rare..

patrick bols
Reply to  MarkW
May 9, 2017 1:30 pm

AMEN – as they will discover after wasting hundreds of millions of investor money – provided anyone would fall for it in the first place.

Reply to  MarkW
May 9, 2017 2:56 pm

Naw, just put it on the car roof so sunlight hits it. Attach the exhaust pipe and run the hydrogen back into the engine. Perpetual motion almost. Lets do some crowd sourcing in Berkley and Boston. Sure to work.

Reply to  usexpat
May 10, 2017 6:14 am

As I understand it, since catalytic convertors were mandated, the exhaust from cars is now mostly
CO2 and H2O. So now the big problem is what to do with the carbon generated.
This should work. Where do I send my $1 to invest????

Reply to  MarkW
May 9, 2017 6:41 pm

No listen to the geniuses here who have no clue. They will tell you based on zero evidence that it won’t work.
Me? I am a skeptic. Might work. Might not. Too early to tell especially with new material science.

michael hart
Reply to  Steven Mosher
May 10, 2017 3:35 am

No, Steve. How about you just shut up for once try and apply a few skills that are learned by very many scientists that are involved in practical solutions in the real world. For example, Catcracking gives a good commnt above, which also indicates why free atmospheric carbon-capture schemes are never going to perform better than trees until long after energy is genuinely too cheap to meter.
Of course it ‘frickin “works“, that is not the issue. I read about such technologies more than two decades ago as an undergraduate. But a simple analysis by a scientist quickly reveal questions like “Where is the energy coming from? It isn’t going to produce more energy than you can get from sunlight, so what is the overall efficiency? Better than a solar cell?” (You know what the answer is going to be.)
The real story is that this is just someone working on this technology who has decided to go down the dark side as a way of getting funding, i.e. deception. The science is probably very good, but still doesn’t fly.
So why not just try remembering back to what you were taught in your days as a science student, Steve?…ohh…..

Reply to  Steven Mosher
May 10, 2017 6:47 am

I don’t see anyone who says it can’t work.
I say many who express doubts about it’s efficiency or cost effectiveness.
As always Mosh sees what he’s paid to see.

Reply to  MarkW
May 11, 2017 2:27 am

MarkW on May 9, 2017 at 7:27 am

It seems to be a complex process, but it is not: the device must only be exposed to light.

Ever been in Beijing on days with 24h supersmog, with in addition dust and finest sand coming around from Tianmo and Hebei?
Not even a little bit of sun during sometimes a whole week. So maybe you will need a generator during the first five days to get the device running until the sun shines a bit again!

May 9, 2017 7:27 am

It seems as though it would take huge volumes of air to produce a small amount of hydrogen in this perpetual motion machine.

Reply to  Bob Greene
May 10, 2017 8:51 am

Excellent point Bob. That was one of the challenges to the extraction of CO2 from air that I mentioned above, since there is only 0,04% CO 2 in the air and it takes a lot of energy to move all the baggage across the membrane to extract he CO 2. How much Hydrogen is in the Polluted air?
Mosh claims that others have no clue? With over 50 years in the energy business working on coal liquefaction, Coal gassification, numerous failed cellulosic alternative energy projects, CO 2 capture, and reading all the failed claims of promising new energy sources does get a sense when there are significant problems with economic commercialization of a lab experiment.

May 9, 2017 7:29 am

If only they could develop a method to create energy from all the hot air released by the alarmists – there seems to be a never-ending supply of that.

Reply to  PJ
May 9, 2017 11:13 am

If only they could develop a method to create energy from all the hot air released by the alarmists – there seems to be a never-ending supply of that.

Oh, that would be easy. Just equip each alarmist with a hamster and a hamster exercise wheel. modified in such a way that the cross wires have fan blades on the surface opposing the little hamster’s feet. Now time the hamster’s exercise session to coincide with the alarmists rant (verbalized and facing the fan-blade-modified exercise wheel). This does two things: (1) it pushes the little beast to work a bit harder, which is good for it, and (2) it displaces otherwise useless wind towards a useful purpose. The wheel also has to be connected somehow (you electrical engineers figure it out) to a generator, and then a network of generators has to be brought online (you metro planners figure that out), so that the collective of all hot-air-rant-raving-hamster-wheel-turning can converge into a unified source of power for all to use in their daily lives.

Reply to  Robert Kernodle
May 10, 2017 7:57 am

Goldberg would be proud!

Joel O’Bryan
May 9, 2017 7:34 am

Almost certainly uses a metal catalyst like palladium, platinum, on nanoparticles to increase surface area. Easily poisoned, as can occur in fuel cells.
The catalytic converter on my car does something similar, but uses waste heat to accelerate the reaction rather than sunlight .
Storing hygrogen as fuel is energy intensive, with the hydrogen mentioned for buses coming from fossil fuel. Using hydrogen as fuel in the urban environment simply shifts the emissions to a distant area. Better (more efficient) to just generate electricity (coal, gas, nuclear, hydro) in rural, wide open area, and build tranmission lines to cities for all electric vehicles. Electric buses on overhead powerlines are of course proven, mature tech. Also why subways are electric, as even water vapor exhaust is confined tunnels would require lots of ventilation fans.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
May 9, 2017 8:16 am

If the waste products of an energy source are shifted from CO2 to H2O, it raises the question of potentially changing the urban microclimate by increasing the relative humidity, and trapping more heat than CO2 supposedly does.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
May 9, 2017 9:06 am

Since they are talking about liberating hydrogen, I doubt CO2 is the target molecule. Probably trying to break down various hydro-carbon compounds.

Benjamin Dickson
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
May 9, 2017 7:54 pm

If you’re going to break down pollution, your obvious targets are Ozone, NOx, and CO, the easily destroyed partially-combusted and relatively unstable molecules. Next would be methane and other VOCs. Finally, you have particulate soot. SO2 and CO2 are fully combusted and can’t be broken down and Metal particulate can’t be burnt either.
The main issue of this is actually airflow and poisoning. In clean areas, the pollution residues are too low a concentration to make it work. In polluted areas, you have so much sulfur in the air that you won’t be able to do anything before you poison your catalyst.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
May 9, 2017 8:27 am

The most interesting future-tek for urban buses I’ve seen is wireless recharging pads under bus stops .

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
May 9, 2017 8:31 am

The few bus lines that drive on hydrogen in my neighborhood (Antwerp) have their hydrogen as byproduct from the chlorine electrolysis. Normally feed in the hydrogen distribution network for the chemical industry pool in the Antwerp harbor, which hydrogen is over 95% made from natural gas.
The latter process as energy source indeed is uneconomical as energy carrier, better use natural gas as direct source of energy than via hydrogen: more energy per volume at the same (high) pressure and hydrogen is a creeping gas, creeps through most rubbers and plastics, not easy to prevent leaks…
The same for electrolysis: most batteries are ~80% efficient nowadays. Thus better store electricity in batteries that convert water into hydrogen (~80% energy efficient) and back to electricity (~50% for fuel cells), thus an overall yield of ~40%. Not very interesting, as hydrogen is such a light gas and either needs enormous pressures (300-700 bar) or is hard to liquify (below -250°C).
In the case of the buses, as hydrogen is a byproduct from the chlorine/alkali production, is has its advantages: cheap, very clean hydrogen and buses with far less noise and emissions than the mostly used diesel buses…

Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
May 9, 2017 9:30 am

Ferdinand, what are the other by-products from this H2 extraction?
30 years ago I worked on a team that developed a Hybrid Bus, the Advanced Technology Transit Bus. It ran off CNG (compressed natural gas). We were investigating viable and reliable energy recovery from the regenerative braking (DC wheel motors), when the project was left to languish due to lack of funding.
One of the technologies I was evaluating for electrical energy generation were portable fuel cell systems. “Portable” was a generous term as they would occupy about 1/3 of a conventional bus’ volume, essentially creating a bus that drove around its power system and about 20 more passengers. As a bonus the fuel cell system used CH4 “reformers to crack the H2 from the CH4. Nasty residue was the by-product of such systems.
Onboard storage of H2 is the preferred method, however as you mentions H2 is difficult to handle as it tends to diffuse through most materials (even metals) and in some cases will embrittle the material making it more susceptible to failure.

Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
May 9, 2017 9:40 am

Ferdinand: Agree with what you say about H2 from CH4. However, obtaining power by burning CH4 is always limited by the maximum efficiency of heat engines: (T2-T1)/T2. Converting either H2 or CH4 directly to electricity in a fuel cell is not. This means that heat engines are usually run at as high a temperature and pressure as possible, often high enough that even N2 starts to break down, producing NOx. These are important factors in the analysis of choices of technology.

Reply to  Ferdinand Engelbeen
May 9, 2017 9:58 am

The main products are chlorine (at the brine side) and caustic soda (NaOH), hydrogen is the byproduct at the caustic soda side of the membrane electrolysis. Chlorine is the main chemical for a lot of factories: PVC, PU, epoxy, titane dioxyde (white pigment for paints),… NaOH also has a lot of applications in cleaning, soaps, paper making,…
They store the H2 at 700 bar in the bus with just enough volume to give a full day back and forth trips. Fuel cells did shrink sufficiently to give the same volume as for a diesel engine and -tanks and thus the same number of passengers.
My experience is positive: especially the difference in noise and the swift accelleration without shifting gears. But simply energy inefficient if you have to make it from natural gas or from “renewable” energy – PTGTP (power to gas to power)…

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
May 9, 2017 9:20 am

Best comment so far, and shows why diminishing returns after construction apply, as well as the comment that implied lower concentrations in air will produce diminishing returns. Add these together and the unit will suffer more poisoning and less utility as the years go by if it is successful in reducing pollution. This is typical of when someone is trying to sell an engineering solution without looking at life cycle. Can anyone say South Australia?

Mark - Helsinki
May 9, 2017 7:36 am

I’ll wait for Thunderfoot’s debunking of this. His debunking of Hyperloop was good. Simply put, the power needed to create a vacuum in a mile of tube, if it goes wrong and the tube loses integrity you are talking one seriously catastrophic event.

Mark - Helsinki
Reply to  Mark - Helsinki
May 9, 2017 7:37 am

and the Hyperloop is going to be rather thin. This doesn’t even include the risk of external impacts.. I’ll take a train, and instead of a spacex rocket I’ll take a flight thanks!

Reply to  Mark - Helsinki
May 9, 2017 8:47 am

Hyperloop sounds like an attractive nuisance target.

Reply to  Mark - Helsinki
May 9, 2017 6:42 pm

His debunking of hyper loop is bogus

Reply to  Steven Mosher
May 10, 2017 6:48 am

Sure it is Steve, sure it is.

David Chappell
Reply to  Steven Mosher
May 10, 2017 7:28 am

Ah, Mr Mosher, keeping up your usual standard of useless drive-by commentary. Do try to learn how to be a good citizen and explain your cryptic remarks or at least provide a reference.

David A
Reply to  Steven Mosher
May 10, 2017 9:31 pm

Mosh went to the Month Python school of debate-discussion.

Mark - Helsinki
May 9, 2017 7:39 am

I wonder how much pollution will be created manufacturing transporting and installing these things because you will need LOADS 😀

Mark - Helsinki
Reply to  Mark - Helsinki
May 9, 2017 7:39 am

how about they just stop polluting. UGH

Reply to  Mark - Helsinki
May 9, 2017 9:08 am

Easier said than done.

Reply to  Mark - Helsinki
May 9, 2017 9:12 am

If you can think of a way for millions of people to live together without producing any pollution city managers the world over would love to hear from you.

May 9, 2017 8:05 am

There are going to be a lot of thing nanomembranes are going to be able to do in the future. We’ll see if this one turns into something or not.

May 9, 2017 8:15 am

If you are producing hydrogen from the “polluted air” the question is what else is being produced. “Polluted air” is probably hydrocarbons and nitrites so there will have to be some other products produced with the C and N. Gaseous nitrogen is OK (N2), but where is the carbon going – CO2? Fine by me as the plants need it, but I suspect this is not going to sit well with the CAGW crowd.

Reply to  Rob
May 9, 2017 8:29 am

Such is also the nasty secret of “reformers” used for fuel cells. Fuel cells use only H2 & O2, but where do they get the H2? Commonly these fuel cells use reformers to crack the H2 free from CH4 (methane) using high heats and energies. The energy net gain from the whole system is positive due to the large returns from the fuel cell itself, however there remains a significant residue from the by-products from the reforming process. This residue is not very eco-friendly.

Reply to  rocketscientist
May 9, 2017 8:35 am

If the residue is CO2, then it is quite eco-friendly – just not eco-nut-friendly!
I have always been quite taken by the thought of using methanol as the hydroegn source for fuel cells as it is reasonably safe liquid fuel at ambient temps. Not being an engineer (or a rocketscientist) I don’t know other practical limitations, but liquid fuels for transport are pretty much the only thing with a power to weight ratio that makes sense.

Reply to  rocketscientist
May 9, 2017 9:39 am

Rob, what you refer to as best sources of portable energy have the property we refer to as “energy density”. It is essentially how much energy per volume (BTUs/liter). This is important because volume is a big consideration when creating vehicles (or many things for that matter).
The issue is that the residue from the reformers is not just CO2, but a whole slew of other hydro-carbon compounds that didn’t quite get reformed totally. Quite a nasty ooze to sludge and tar is what they create, and of such low energy content that it is not useful to continue to process.

John MacDonald
May 9, 2017 8:16 am

I wonder what species of pollution this reduces? NOx, O3, CH4? I doubt it’ll do much for particulates, which is certainly a China problem.

Reply to  John MacDonald
May 9, 2017 8:20 am

If it is extracting H2, then I doubt it has much use for any molecules that do not contain hydrogen. All the nitric/nitrous oxides, sulfuric compounds, carbon monoxides/dioxides …. they get a pass.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  rocketscientist
May 9, 2017 9:27 am

They may be doing a non-chlorophyll photosynthesis-like reaction of reducing available water molecules to form hydrides, then the O2 can oxidize other compounds, while the liberated electrons become reducing agents on hydrides.. They talk of a membrane, so small negative-charged hydride (H-) may be the electron transporter with metals doped into the membrane or sandwiched on coated nanoparticles between two membrane layers to the hydrogen side where H2 is collected/formed and the electrons recycle back to pollutant side to balance the reaction. In any case, Follow the electrons.

Reply to  John MacDonald
May 9, 2017 8:50 am

how about converting the H in DEF (CO(NH2)2)?

May 9, 2017 8:16 am

I would very much like to see the energy balance equations for this device and understand the scalability of such.
I am initially skeptical because this sounds a bit like “cold fusion”.
If it only requires exposure to sunlight, how much?
Will we require acres of these devices and huge suction pumps to force the polluted air through the panels that then only recover a small fraction of the energy required to operate?
Seems like they might have merely discovered an inefficient way to filter the air.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  rocketscientist
May 9, 2017 9:05 am

That was my question and stated better than I could have.

Reply to  rocketscientist
May 9, 2017 9:26 am

You got it, rocket. No matter how the reaction is catalyzed, you still have to add the energy needed to produce the H2, it is a high energy molecule. If it comes from the sunlight, then it has to have a greater efficiency than solar panels to make sense. But the storage feature is a clear advantage over direct electricity generation. But my spider sense is telling me there is a lot more to this story that is yet to be revealed, including the fatal flaw.

Reply to  rocketscientist
May 9, 2017 7:59 pm

The idea would have merit if it combusted CO and broke down O3 or NOx gases. However, even these are in part per billion levels in normal air. Even if you had industrial cooling-tower sized fans, you can’t move enough air to make meaningful reductions.
The H2 production pitch only seals the deal to confirm that it’s a scam.

John G
Reply to  rocketscientist
May 10, 2017 10:12 am

Maybe they’re just selling it wrong. Instead of advertising it as a new energy source sell it as a self powered air pollution reduction device that also produces H2. Use the H2 to generate power to provide sunlight when the sun don’t shine. Beijing and assorted cities around the world will order millions of them.

May 9, 2017 8:22 am

Even if it does take energy to make it work, cleaning up a polluted stagnant air mass in a city is very beneficial. I can remember LA in the 60’s where your eyes started watering after 5 minutes outside. Hopefully it runs on DC so you can plug it directly into a solar panel without the inverter and away you go.
Obviously better to clean it up at the source, but after the fact is better than not at all.
I’m skeptical of a lot of these “breakthroughs”, but I’ll give the researchers credit for trying, and it just may lead to something scalable and workable.

May 9, 2017 8:29 am

If I had to bet money, I would bet on the concrete that eats pollution before I would bet on the cells that turn pollution into energy. link

May 9, 2017 8:30 am

Looked up the paper and read the abstract. Pretty useless. The only air pollutant scrubbed is VOC. Does nothing for SO2, NOx, or PM. Those are the big three in places like China. But the PR has sure echoed around the world. PR verbatim is already in, which links do but does not discuss the paper details.

Reply to  ristvan
May 9, 2017 8:38 am

Thanks Ruud, a good dose of realism. Might have a use in air purification from industrial processes, but not “air pollution” as we generally think of it.

Reply to  ristvan
May 9, 2017 9:04 am

So I guess that China won’t be the Saudi Arabia of pollution energy after all.

Janice Moore
Reply to  Chimp
May 9, 2017 9:25 am

lol 🙂

David Chappell
Reply to  Chimp
May 10, 2017 7:33 am

No, merely the Saudi Arabia of pollution.

Tom Halla
Reply to  ristvan
May 9, 2017 9:06 am

Thank you. I assumed there was a major problem with this magic device, and you pointed it out. The other problem is dealing with hydrogen, as this site has gone into extensively in the past.

Eustace Cranch
Reply to  ristvan
May 9, 2017 9:38 am

ristvan, a polite request- this a generally smart, knowledgeable bunch here but not everyone knows every single acronym ever coined. It would be nice to have them spelled out, at least on first usage.

Reply to  Eustace Cranch
May 9, 2017 9:48 am

Volatile organic carbon (e.g. Gasoline fumes and ink solvents) = VOc
particulate matter (soot) = PM. Comes in different sizes like PM10 (average 10 microns) and PM2.5 (average 2.5 microns), the new concern in Europe with all tye diesel autos.

Ben of Houston
Reply to  Eustace Cranch
May 10, 2017 5:12 am

You missed one Rist, NOx. A mixture of NO, NO2, and N2O, all of which are produced as products of combustion.The other main pollutants are
Also, smog is formed of Ozone (O3) which comes from mixtures of NOx and VOCs in sunlight.
Also, PM10 is “all particulate of 10 microns or less”. It’s entirely inclusive of PM2.5, which is “particulate of 2.5 microns or less”. That’s a significant distinction if you start looking at numbers. And in much of America and Eurpoe, a good chunk of particulate is not soot, but metal or salt. That last one is extremely important, as the EPA recently began quantifying the salt emissions from cooling towers, doubling or tripling the PM2.5 emissions fro a lot of facilities.

Reply to  Eustace Cranch
May 10, 2017 7:23 am

Ben of Houston May 10, 2017 at 5:12 am
You missed one Rist, NOx. A mixture of NO, NO2, and N2O, all of which are produced as products of combustion.

N2O is not included as NOx, which are defined as containing a single N atom.
Also, smog is formed of Ozone (O3) which comes from mixtures of NOx and VOCs in sunlight.
Which is why even only removing the VOC will be beneficial in reducing smog.

Ron Williams
May 9, 2017 8:30 am

This is similar to the same concept as making hydrogen directly from sunlight, skipping the PV part. Never heard a whole lot more on that. In fact, the hydrogen economy never materialized either. I think this will remain scientific fiction, at least insofar as being commercial ever. Same reason as PV’s but worse. Energy density is very low.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Ron Williams
May 9, 2017 9:07 am

But can they get government grants for it. After all, that is what really matters.

May 9, 2017 8:40 am

Hmm, a 3 acre installation to power a hydrogen car for 6 hours…nano scale membranes have been in the labs for years but they’ve never made it out to where the rubber meets the road.

May 9, 2017 9:10 am

I’ve already got a version of this.
It’s called a plant.

Janice Moore
Reply to  Gary
May 9, 2017 9:13 am


Janice Moore
Reply to  Janice Moore
May 9, 2017 9:24 am
Clean air, now.
Fuel, later.**
(** Okay, not the kids’ playground trees! But, the point stands: think Weyerhauser and other forest managers….)

Reply to  Janice Moore
May 9, 2017 12:04 pm

Whew. Thought you might be going all soylent green on us there Janice.

Janice Moore
May 9, 2017 9:12 am

Wrongheaded from the get-go:

researchers respond to two major social needs:
clean air {OK} and
alternative energy production {NOT!}.

May 9, 2017 9:14 am

suppose could be useful if it works, just unsure how much space is needed between polluted air and membrane separated enclosure.
if could be set in a 2×2 ft box with membrane being part of box enclosure could be deployed in smog areas to help.
I say this w/o actually reading the source or anything, just no time right now.

May 9, 2017 9:24 am

Oh, don’t give up so easily, people! It took Tom Edison 1,000++ tries to get the electric light bulb going! And look where we are today: paying the electric company a small monthly fortune to run a computer, the dishwasher, the furnace or a/c, the stand mixer, TV, internet, charge your phones – you name it, we’re using it to suck up electricity.
What is this thing really supposed to do? Petroleum wasn’t very useful until someone distilled it into kerosene and other fuels, and then all that sticky good turned into plastics and synthetic materials for clothing for the Warmians to wear at protest.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Sara
May 9, 2017 11:49 am

But how much in government tax money were they granted to do all that research?

Reply to  Tom in Florida
May 10, 2017 9:17 am

Same thought I had. All the things Sara mentions had no government money picking winners and losers. The inventors/discoverers had economic incentive and personal pride pushing them, not government mandates and monies.

May 9, 2017 9:41 am

Title is wrong. The gadget uses solar power to produce fuel from pollution.
Still good news if the gadget can be cheaply mass-produced.

Peta from Cumbria, now Newark
May 9, 2017 10:11 am

So what’s the ‘pollution’ here?
Is it NOx – simple. Let it dissolve in water, which it does readily, and give it to the farmers as nitrogen fertiliser. Saves them buying it.
And did you know, *vastly* more NOx in London (and other big cities) comes from domestic & commercial gas boilers/heaters than from diesel vehicles. But of course cars are a much easier target for lazy & can’t be arsed bureaucrats.
Is it sulphur dioxide, possibly trioxide – again simple. Dissolves in very readily in water and, surprise – plants need sulphur to grow, Especially those darlings of greenies everywhere, oilseeds.
Again, saves the farmers buying the stuff
What about soot, all those deadly PM_2.5s and just wait till someone chronic depressive utters the words PM_0.25 Might as well jump off a tall bridge now as wait till those little fookers come get ya.
Maybe soot is not so water soluble but hey, its carbon. Its part of natural good healthy dirt.
Like biochar, we’ve all hard of that. That’s soot basically. Fantastic stuff especially for heavy clay soil, opens it up, drains it, makes it workable and not least, grows things.
All this ‘pollution’ is actually ambrosia for plants and these uneducated nerds regard it as the lowest of the low. Just push the polluted air through a shower room and jobs a good un.
Just wait 50 years and who’s gonna not lay odds that these fantastic new nano-this, nano-that and nano-the-other don’t turn into the future version of what asbestos now is……..

Reply to  Peta from Cumbria, now Newark
May 9, 2017 2:00 pm

Peta, so your suggested solution to the pollution issue is…more rain?
It does wonders to clear all those water soluble molecules, and …makes plants grow!

Reply to  rocketscientist
May 10, 2017 5:17 am

Well, a wet scrubber is the best solution for particulate. It doesn’t help with NOx much, though..

Dr Dave
May 9, 2017 10:34 am

If this was a patent application, then maybe there would be something behind the purported technology. However, since it’s (yet another) academic press release, then we will most likely never hear of this again.

May 9, 2017 11:00 am

LInk to article … Ok, the abstract and first page of the article.

May 9, 2017 11:05 am

Device looks intriguing. Into which of the two ports do they pour the taxpayers subsidies?

Barbara Skolaut
May 9, 2017 11:10 am

“The researchers’ goal is to be able to use sunlight”
Wouldn’t that be hard in a heavily polluted place? Like, oh, say Shanghai (see pic)?

Reply to  Barbara Skolaut
May 9, 2017 1:22 pm

That’s what I would like to know.

Janice Moore
Reply to  Barbara Skolaut
May 9, 2017 4:18 pm

Great observation, Ms. Skolaut!

Janice Moore
Reply to  Leo Smith
May 9, 2017 4:15 pm

+1! 🙂

Reply to  Leo Smith
May 10, 2017 9:45 pm

Agree, it says too much about the research that we tax payers are forced to fuND via our incompetent government. Obama hired people to write contracts not to vet the likely value of the request for funds. I know because I spoke with one of them about one such contract. Wehen we worked with the DOE on coal liquefaction we wrote monthly progress reports and a final report. Today I have not been able to get such reports, just read propaganda.

May 9, 2017 11:51 am

Euphoria: That brief period after you think of a great idea but before you realize what is wrong with it.
The more you know about hydrogen the more you realize it makes a lousy transportation fuel.
China could substantially mitigate their serious pollution problem by incorporating precipitators & scrubbers on coal plants, and catalytic converters on vehicles like in the U.S.

Reply to  Dan Pangburn
May 9, 2017 12:42 pm

See essay Hydrogen Hype in ebook Blowing Smoke for all themproblems of hydrogen as a transportation fuel. From an energy climate perspective, better of buying a Prius.

R. de Haan
May 9, 2017 12:55 pm

Maybe they can start cleaning the air in Brussels.

R. de Haan
May 9, 2017 1:01 pm

The Chinese are the factory of the world. The build most of the electric cars now, elecric scooters, solar panels, wind mills, you name it. They are the biggest producer of green shit in the world. They don’t need no Belgian Tech.. Within 15 years they will clean everything up just as we did in the seventies and eighties.
Only the sand and dust clouds from the Gobi Desert, no solution for that natural phenomena.

May 9, 2017 1:39 pm

Catalysts can only facilitate exothermic reactions like combustion. They cannot make endothermic reactions (like photosynthesis) happen.

Reply to  tadchem
May 9, 2017 1:51 pm

The catalyst of photosynthesis is chlorophyll, at the core of which is a magnesium ion.
Chlorophyll a formula:

Reply to  Chimp
May 10, 2017 7:45 am

Mn manganese, actually

Reply to  tadchem
May 9, 2017 7:50 pm

True,also they cannot change the laws of thermodynamics or chemistry, there is no free lunch.

May 9, 2017 1:42 pm

I want to now how they get hydrogen out of ozone, sulfur dioxide, and NOx’s, because if they can do that, I want them to skip the hydrogen and just convert the pollution to something useful like gold or platinum.

Paul Jackson
May 9, 2017 2:08 pm

Magic eightball says it’s a slight variation of self-cleaning glass; a coating of titanium doxide catalyses atmospheric water vapor into hydrogen and a hydroxide ion in the presence of UV in sunlight. the hydroxide ion would very aggressively oxidise any organics in the air. This glass is commercially available from Plinkington

Reply to  Paul Jackson
May 9, 2017 2:10 pm

Cool. Wonder how long the microscopic coating lasts.

May 9, 2017 3:08 pm

When did hydrogen become a pollutant? What happened/s to the C/CO2?

May 9, 2017 4:52 pm

Another low power density dream- hundreds of kilograms of hardware to harvest 1 watt or so of hydrogen that needs 10 watts of power to compress it enough to store in a vulnerable, explosive, high pressure container.
What could go wrong?

May 9, 2017 4:53 pm

oops 1 watt/M^2

May 9, 2017 5:58 pm

The May issue of power magazine has an interesting related article starting on page 22 titled “Whatever Happened to Fuel Cells” giving a review of the history of fuel cells, which make no sense to me. It appears that the only possible use is to chase CCS which is of course questionable goal in my mind. Note that ExxonMobil is involved in one effort probably as goaded by Obama mandates
“In October, FCE and ExxonMobil announced that they were deploying a pilot test at Southern Co.’s Plant Barry in Alabama to gather data for the development of a large-scale test using flue gas from both coal and natural gas exhaust streams. The Department of Energy, which has already been supporting FCE’s research into coal-plant CCS, is also a partner in the project. That announcement drew additional attention, with other companies in the U.S. and Canada reaching out to FCE about possible CCS applications, not just in power generation but additional fields such as oil and gas processing, cement manufacturing, and steel mills.
According to Tony Leo, FCE’s vice president of applications and advanced technologies who spoke to POWER in March, FCE and ExxonMobil will be working on the initial testing and engineering for the next nine to 12 months, with an aim of beginning construction in 2018 and starting up in late 2018 or 2019. Leo said the approach does not vary that much whether coal or natural gas flue gas is used.
“Because there is so much cleanup of the flue gas in a modern coal plant, the primary differences are just that the coal flue gas is at ambient temperature but has a higher CO2 concentration, which make it easier to capture,” he said. “But because our fuel cell is a high-temperature system, the hotter flue gas from a gas turbine means we can capture thermal energy from it. So there are pluses and minuses for both.”
ExxonMobil has not been shy about their enthusiasm for the partnership. Vijay Swarup, vice president for research and development, called the technology a “game changer” for CCS when it was first announced. As a sign of how seriously the company is taking things, new CEO Darren Woods called out the project as one of his priorities for the company’s future in a February 23 blog post. “ExxonMobil is investing heavily in CCS, including research in a novel technology that uses fuel cells that could make CCS more affordable and expand its use.”
A Path to Profits?
Fuel cells remain a relatively expensive means of generating power, and repeated stumbles by some fuel-cell companies make it clear the sector is still in search of a profitable niche. Could it be CCS? Thus far, no other CCS technology comes close to offering what fuel cells could, with all other approaches being parasitic drains—sometimes very large ones—on generation. If FCE and ExxonMobil can make it work cost-effectively, CCS could be the “killer app” fuel cells have been seeking for decades. ■”

May 10, 2017 1:33 am

Ozone reacts with water to produce hydrogen peroxide, which does a terrific job of cleaning the atmosphere — and with no assistance from the self-appointed, self-self-aggrandizing “stewards” of Earth, homo simian.

May 10, 2017 9:00 am

Sounds like a great set up for automobiles. Use a battery and electric motor to get up to speed. Then create hydrogen fuel from the ambient air flow across the fuel creating device to power the internal combustion engine. Then direct the engines exhaust through the fuel generating device to increase efficiency even more. Then direct that clean air to blow on a sail and you got a winner! Add a magic carpet for even greater effect!

May 10, 2017 9:55 am
May 12, 2017 1:56 am

Dear Belgian scientists,
What air pollutants containing hydrogen your gadget removes? Hydrogen sulfide? Methane? These are trace gases. If you want to remove methane from air, get it from cow’s fart and your toilet’s septic tank. At least these are concentrated sources of methane

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