The Innovators Podcast: Painting the future of solar

In the RMIT School of Engineering, one rule is always followed: No idea is thrown away.

This saved Dr. Torben Daeneke’s and his student’s work after a long-term project to develop a failed hydrogen sensor.

Daeneke recalls this in the second episode of ARENA’s new podcast ReWired: The Innovators. The two investigated and brought distinguished professor Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh into the fold. They found that the synthetic material, called molybdenum, they were using was reacting with moisture in the atmosphere.

The challenge was: What else could they use this substance for? This is when a story heading for failure takes a sharp turn toward success.

In this episode, Daeneke, Kalantar, and Zadeh discuss the various steps that led to the invention of their hydrogen-producing solar pigment and its possible future applications.

Daeneke wondered if it might have some solar applications. She has experience in electrical solar cell technology. The team quickly changed their strategy and combined the molybdenum sulfide with titanium oxide to create the paint.

When this titanium oxide absorbs the light, it creates an electrochemical charge inside these particles. Daeneke explains that the particles act as a mini solar panel.

Their research, which is still in its infancy but has already significantly impacted the process of using air moisture to extract water, simplifies what was previously a relatively energy-intensive one.

This is the absolute joy of the lab: we can see something and then move randomly in that direction. “It’s thrilling,” Kalantar says.

Subscribe to Adam Morton’s ReWired, The Innovators episode two, for more information about the project. You can also catch up with episode 1 featuring PowerLedger’s co-founder Jemma.

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