Jun 28, 2017 | Updated: 09:10 PM EDT

Goodbye to Solar Panels, Hello to Solar...Paint?

Jun 19, 2017 04:48 PM EDT

Painting house
(Photo : Wikimedia CC A-SA 2.5)

A team of innovative Aussies from RMIT University has invented a new solar paint that could soon power our cars and homes.

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The paint itself contains a compound that acts like silica gel -- but unlike silica gel, this new compound absorbs water vapor, splitting the water molecules to create hydrogen and oxygen.

So, as long as there's moisture in the air, any item painted with this new compound will have the ability to generate clean energy.

"We found that mixing the compound with titanium oxide particles leads to a sunlight-absorbing paint that produces hydrogen fuel from solar energy and moist air," lead researcher Dr. Torben Daeneke said. "Titanium oxide is the white pigment that is already commonly used in wall paint, meaning that the simple addition of the new material can convert a brick wall into energy harvesting and fuel production real estate."

"Our new development has a big range of advantages," Dr. Daeneke continued. "There's no need for clean or filtered water to feed the system. Any place that has water vapor in the air, even remote areas far from water, can produce fuel."

"This system can also be used in very dry but hot climates near oceans," Daeneke's colleague, Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh added. "The sea water is evaporated by the hot sunlight and the vapor can then be absorbed to produce fuel. This is an extraordinary concept -- making fuel from the sun and water vapor in the air."

While the paint won't be commercially available for another five years, scientists believe that once the process is perfected, it will be cheap to produce. From walls to fences to houses, the paint can be used on just about any surface, immediately transforming any structure into a clean energy plant.

Dr. Daeneke's research was published in ACS Nano, a journal of the American Chemical Society.

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