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Singaporean scientists develop nanomaterial producing energy, water and hydrogen

Singaporean scientists develop nanomaterial producing energy, water and hydrogen
Associate Professor Sun with Multi-use Titanium Oxide (Photo from Nanyang Technological University)

Ever thought of a material capable of producing hydrogen, generating clean water and creating energy all at the same time?

While this may seem too good to be true, Singaporean scientists from Nanyang Technological University proved that such material could actually exist.

Dubbed as Multi-use Titanium Dioxide, the groundbreaking nanomaterial is formed by turning titanium dioxide crystals into nanofibers, which can then be easily made into flexible filter membranes including carbon, copper, zinc or tin, depending on the specific end product needed.

Titanium oxide is at the core of the new material. It is cheap and abundant and has the ability to boost a chemical reaction and bond easily with water.

Being able to bond with water, Multi-use Titanium Dioxide can also be used in desalination acting as a high flux forward osmosis membrane.

Apart from this, adding to the notable attributes of this innovation are its knack to produce hydrogen when exposed to sunlight, recover energy from waste desalination brine and wastewater, be turned into low-cost solar cells, double lifespan of lithium ion batteries, as well as kill harmful bacteria, opening opportunities for new antibacterial bandages.

According to Associate Professor Darren Sun, leader of the N.T.U. team of scientists, this low cost and easy to develop nanomaterial is expected to have a huge potential to help address global issues concerning energy and the environment.

For instance, he cited a Population Institute report which suggested that the world’s population will reach 3 billion by 2030, causing a massive increase in the global demand for energy, food by 50 percent and 30 percent for drinking water.

“While there is no single silver bullet to solving two of the world’s biggest challenges: cheap renewable energy and an abundant supply of clean water; our single multi-use membrane comes close, with its titanium dioxide nanoparticles being a key catalyst in discovering such solutions,” said Prof. Sun, who has already published over than 70 scientific papers on titanium dioxide in the last five years.

“With our unique nanomaterial, we hope to be able to help convert today’s waste into tomorrow’s resources, such as clean water and energy,” he added.

Currently, Prof. Sun and his team are working to further advance the material while simultaneously planning to put up a company that will commercialize Multi-use Titanium Dioxide. They are also seeking for partnership with commercial partners to fast track the commercialization. – C. Dominguez

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