A Japanese research institution says it has developed a silicon photocatalyst that can produce hydrogen 30 times more efficiently than current technology.KIZUCHO, Kyoto (JP) 2002-01-29 [SolarAccess.com] The Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth in Kyoto Prefecture says the photocatalyst turns water into hydrogen and oxygen when exposed to light. It could develop the use of clean burning hydrogen fuels in vehicles and aircraft. Traditionally, photocatalysts have come in the form of powdered titanium oxide and powdered iron oxide. However, the rate of transformation from light energy into hydrogen is normally 0.1 percent and the hydrogen produced by the powdered oxides may still contain impurities. Researchers at RITE developed a 2 micron film of a photocatalyst from silicon semiconductors, cobalt molybdena, iron-nickel oxides and other metallic substances. When placed in water and exposed to light, they say the water dissolves on its surface, generating hydrogen and oxygen separately. They claim the new catalyst has a transformation rate of 3 percent, 30 times greater than other methods, and its film-like characteristics mean it can be used in a variety of situations. An official at Japan’s department of Economy, Trade & Industry is reported as saying it is significant that an efficient photocatalyst had been developed at a relatively low cost, to allow hydrogen to be used as a practical source of clean energy.