Professor Darren Sun at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University has developed what he calls Multi-Use Titanium Dioxide (TiO2), by turning titanium dioxide crystals into nanofibers. These nanofibers can easily be made into flexible filter membranes by combining them with carbon, copper, zinc, or tin, depending on the application.
Here’s where it gets interesting. Professor Sun has been able to use Multi-Use Titanium Dioxide nanofibers treated with iron oxide to create membranes that produce clean water from wastewater, with one additional major benefit. When exposed to sunlight, the nanofibers in the membrane take some of that wastewater and produces hydrogen, which can be used as fuel. He says that they’ve been able to produce hydrogen from water at about three times the rate of hydrogen produced when using platinum catalysts, which is the typical way that sunlight is used to split water. And titanium dioxide (it’s also called titania) is pretty cheap, certainly much cheaper than platinum.
The research team has found other uses for Multi-Use Titanium Dioxide. They’ve developed a black titanium dioxide polycrystalline sheet that can function as a flexible solar cell. They’ve also found that using another blend of titanium dioxide and carbon as the anode in a lithium ion battery, it doubles the capacity of the battery.
Professor Sun’s team has recently spun off a start-up company to further develop and commercialize multi-use titanium dioxide nanofibers.