Scientists have found a way to generate energy from pollution in a process that could one day clean up dirty city air.
Their device contains two chambers separated by a membrane which, under sunlight, breaks down polluted air into hydrogen gas.
“This hydrogen gas can be stored and used later as fuel, as is already being done in some hydrogen buses, for example,” said Sammy Verbruggen, a professor at the University of Antwerp.
“In the past, these cells were mostly used to extract hydrogen from water. We have now discovered that this is also possible, and even more efficient, with polluted air,” Verbruggen added.
While the device is currently only a few square centimetres in size, researchers said it could be scaled up for industrial applications.
The processes underlying the technology bear a resemblance to those found in solar panels.
But rather than directly generating electricity, the process produces a gas that can be stored and later used for generation.
Hydrogen fuel cells are proving increasingly popular among car and bus manufacturers.
Double decker hydrogen buses are due to be trialled in London this year as part of mayor Sadiq Khan’s plan to phase out diesel buses.