This image shows the new, efficient way to pull pure oxygen from water.
Click on image for full size
Image Courtesy of MIT/NSF
News story originally written on August 8, 2008
Two scientists have discovered an easy way to get pure oxygen from water using a small amount of electricity. This discovery may become an important new green-energy source.
To produce oxygen, they added a few chemicals to water and then inserted an electrode. As soon as they applied a current, a dark film began to form on the electrode from which tiny pockets of oxygen began to appear, eventually building into a stream of bubbles.
After analyzing the electrode, Nocera and Kanan concluded that a mixture had deposited as a film. They believe the film is what helps break apart the water molecules to create oxygen gas. The protons (hydrogen nuclei) released from the process pick up electrons and convert back into hydrogen at a partner electrode.
Oxygen and hydrogen are energy-rich fuels. This new technique could be a cheap energy source for people to use when the Sun goes down. While this might not be available as a home-based energy source for about ten more years, this discovery is a major step forward.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
on science education, ranging from evolution
, classroom research
, and the need for science and math literacy
You might also be interested in:
Oxygen (O2) is a kind of gas. A lot of the air you breathe is oxygen. That's a good thing, since we need oxygen to stay alive! About 4/5ths of the air in Earth's atmosphere is nitrogen (N2). Almost all...more
Electricity and magnetism are two very important topics in the science of physics. We use electricity to power computers and to turn on a light. Magnetism makes a compass point North and keeps notes stuck...more
Scientists have learned that Mount Hood, Oregon's tallest mountain, has erupted in the past due to the mixing of two different types of magma. Adam Kent, a geologist at Oregon State University, says this...more
The Earth's mantle is a rocky, solid shell that is between the Earth's crust and the outer core. The mantle is made up of many different reservoirs that have different chemical compositions. Scientists...more
Some faults look strong and like they wouldn’t cause an earthquake. But it turns out that they can slip and slide like weak faults causing earthquakes. Scientists have been looking at one of these faults...more
The sun goes through cycles that last approximately 11 years. These solar cycle include phases with more magnetic activity, sunspots, and solar flares. They also include phases with less activity. The...more
Studying tree rings doesn't only tell us the age of that tree. Tree rings also show what climate was like while the tree was alive. This means that tree rings can tell us about climates of the past. Two...more