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Nanotrees Turn Sun and Water into Hydrogen Fuel


Electrical engineers at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) are building artificial nanotrees that mimic real life plants to take in sunlight, water and CO2 and produce hydrogen fuel. Now, I’ve talked about the artificial leaf being developed several times before for the same purposes.

The engineers at UCSD, however, are using cheap materials such as zinc oxide and silicon to deliver cheap hydrogen fuel, hopefully, one day on a massive scale.

According to , “The trees’ vertical structure and branches are keys to capturing the maximum amount of solar energy … That’s because the vertical structure of trees grabs and adsorbs light while flat surfaces simply reflect it … By harvesting more sun light using the vertical nanotree structure, Wang’s team has developed a way to produce more hydrogen fuel efficiently compared to planar counterparts.”

This is not the first time that scientists have used artificial trees for technological purposes. Where I live are a dime a dozen reflecting signals to our Android phones and iPhones. So, the future prospect of building tiny forests of nanotrees does have its roots, so to speak, in current trends in science towards replicating nature, specifically leaves and trees.

The UCSC project is interesting in another aspect, too. As with real life trees, the nanotrees also collect CO2 from the atmosphere and with large enough installations of this type of technology will help clean some of the CO2 from the atmosphere.

The trick will be as with all science projects is scaling up and commercializing this technology. If I were a betting man I would say that within the next 5 years artificial leaves and trees will be playing a large role in renewable hydrogen fuel production.

About Hydro Kevin Kantola

Hydro Kevin Kantola
I'm a hydrogen auto blogger, editor and publisher interested in documenting the history and the progression of hydrogen autos, vehicles and infrastructure worldwide.

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  1. Avatar
    William R Nicholson

    I’d like to share your enthusiasm however I have been paying attention during my past 50 years ( repairing, building and maintaining engines ) and the power structure will not allow your dream. If any progress is to be made it will require a radical change from the dictatorial structure we now have. We now have to hitchhike on space vehicles made overseas and soon we’ll be pulling rickshaws for foreign tourists if our emperor in chief is not dethroned ! I have been patiently waiting since being within the first class of graduating alt fuels techs certified in Apr of 94′ and very disappointed in our gov’t at all levels. Keep Dreaming

  2. admin

    That’s also what people said about men building airplanes and sending a man to the moon. It may not happen as quickly as either of us would like it to, but I believe it will happen. Unfortunately the U. S. will not lead in this technology but rather be followers.

  3. Avatar

    I think what is really important is that The trees’ vertical structure and branches are keys to capturing the maximum amount of solar energy.

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