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Device Purifies Air and Creates Energy All at the Same Time

Device Purifies Air and Creates Energy All at the Same Time

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Polluted air enters through a tube on one side, is purified in the middle and exits the other tube as clean air. A small innovation could have a big impact on air pollution. In Belgium, researchers have engineered a device that uses sunlight to purify polluted air and produce hydrogen gas that can be stored and used for power.

"We couple both processes together in one device," Sammy Verbruggen, a professor of bioscience engineering at the University of Antwerp, told Live Science. "Hydrogen production on one side and air purification on the other side."

Verbruggenis working with two teams of researchers who had been separately investigating both processes for years. At the University of Antwerp, the scientists had been testing different ways of combing light energy with nanomaterials to purify air. At the University of Leuven, another team had been working on a tiny fuel cell with a membrane that could produce hydrogen gas from water. [ In Photos: World’s Most Polluted Places ]

Now, the two teams have merged their expertise to create this newest device, which could purify fouled air and produce energy at the same time.

Verbruggensaid the researchers are focusing on air polluted with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are small molecules produced by chemicals in adhesives, upholstery, carpeting, copy machines, cleaning fluids and more. In sufficient concentrations, VOCs can cause severe headaches, eye irritation, dizziness, nauseaand asthma attacks .

The small molecules can be found in the air of enclosed buildings that are not well-ventilated, according to the Environmental Protection Agency , which may include newly built high-rises to factories that manufacture goods like paint and carpeting.

"They can lead to a disease called the sick building syndrome," Verbruggensaid.The prototype cell is a square with an active area that measures about 0.4 inches by 0.4 inches (1 centimeter by […]