Hydrogen, the lightest and most prevalent element in the universe, may prove to be the car fuel of choice in the future.
Tests on experimental vehicles have already shown hydrogen to be an efficient and pollution-free fuel; now Institute researchers are working on reducing the prohibitive cost involved in its production. They are developing technology that will use solar energy to extract hydrogen from its most readily available source, water.
Water molecules, which contain two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen, break apart when heated to very high temperatures under low pressure. But until now the hydrogen could not be exploited because the elements quickly recombine once they cool down.
Now a method to keep the elements separate has been developed by Prof. Avraham Kogan, working at the Institute's Solar Research Facilities Unit. In collaboration with the Israel Ceramic and Silicate Institute, he designed a special ceramic membrane that withstands temperatures of more than 2,000°C and allows hydrogen atoms to pass through while leaving the larger oxygen atoms behind. Kogan says the method is feasible, but the membrane has to work at even higher temperatures for it to be economically viable.