DETROIT – The most sustainable way to make hydrogen fuel is to split water using renewable electricity—but that requires access to freshwater. Now, researchers have reported a way to make hydrogen fuel from just humidity in the air.

Their electrolyzer extracts moisture from air and splits it into renewable powered electrolysis to create hydrogen. It is the first such electrolyzer to produce high purity (99 percent) hydrogen from air that has a little as 4 percent humidity, says Gang Kevin Li, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Melbourne, in Australia. The success could open up the possibility of producing hydrogen in semi-arid regions, which also have some of the highest solar- and wind-power potential.

Tests of the prototype direct-air electrolyzer over 12 consecutive days showed that it could produce almost 750 liters of hydrogen a day on average per square meter of electrolyzer. Li and his colleagues reported the details in the journal Nature Communications.

Hydrogen offers the prospect of clean, emission-free energy, and the hydrogen economy has gathered steam in the past few years due to increases in funding and improvements in technology. But most of the hydrogen around the world today is still produced from natural gas or coal. Green hydrogen from electrolysis is still a nascent technology because of the need for electrolyzers on a large scale.

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