SYDNEY – Bloomberg

Scientists from Australia and the United States reported having replicated a process found in plants, which uses sunlight to make hydrogen from water. The process poses a potentially cleaner and more efficient method of producing energy for use in fuel cells.
By replicating aspects of photosynthesis, the breakthrough could �revolutionize the renewable energy industry by making hydrogen, touted as the clean, green fuel of the future, cheaper and easier to produce on a commercial scale,� Melbourne-based Monash University said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.
Fuel cells, currently used as alternatives to gasoline-powered engines in vehicles, run on hydrogen that is mostly produced from refining fossil fuels. The new process would rely on renewable sources, rather than oil or natural gas, and use no electricity, said the scientists.
�Hydrogen has long been considered the ideal clean green fuel, energy-rich and carbon neutral,� Leone Spiccia, one of the scientists from Monash University, said in the statement. �The production of hydrogen using nothing but water and sunlight offers the possibility of an abundant renewable, green source of energy for the future.�
The method developed by the scientists uses a catalyst system with a coating that can be impregnated with a form of manganese, a chemical essential to sustaining photosynthesis in plant life, said Monash University.
Testing showed the catalyst system was still active after three days of continuous use, producing oxygen and hydrogen in the presence of water, electric energy and light, it said.
Scientists from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and America's Princeton University are part of the team. The scientists are now working on connecting the system to a light absorber, allowing it to work without electric power, and on increasing its efficiency, Spiccia said by telephone.
They are in talks with potential investors who may finance the development of commercial systems, he said.