South East Asia News.Net
Friday 30th May, 2008 (IANS)

It has been called the holy grail of the modern era – cheap solar energy. And scientists say it may be within our grasp soon.

A Queensland University team has grown the world’s first titanium oxide
nano crystals that are likely to revolutionise the way solar energy is
harvested and used.

Creating these highly efficient miniature crystals with large reactive surfaces was thought of as impossible by most scientists.

Max Lu, who led the study, sounded upbeat that they were a step closer
to the holy grail of cost-effective solar energy with their discovery.

"Highly active surfaces in such crystals allow high reactivity and
efficiency in devices used for solar energy conversion and hydrogen
production," said Lu.

"Titania nano-crystals are promising materials for cost-effective solar
cells, hydrogen production from splitting water, and solar
decontamination of pollutants.

"The beauty of our technique is that it is very simple and cheap to make such materials at mild conditions."

Lu said it wasn’t just renewable energy where this research could be
applied. These crystals are also fantastic for purifying air and
water," he said.

"The same principle for such materials to convert sunlight to
electricity is also working to break down pollutants in water and air.

"One could paint these crystals onto a window or a wall to purify the
air in a room. The potential of applications of this technology in
water purification and recycling are huge."

Lu said it would be about five years for the water and air pollution
applications to be commercially available, and about 5 to 10 years for
the solar energy conversion using such crystals.

Details of the project have been published in the latest edition of the journal Nature.

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