2010 Annual Science Report
University of Wisconsin Reporting | SEP 2009 – AUG 2010
Project 2D: Tectonic Hydrogen Production Through Piezoelectrochemical Effect, a New Mechanism for the Direct Conversion of Mechanical Energy to Chemical Energy by Deforming Piezoelectric Minerals in Water
A decade ago, environmental microbiologists put forth the radical proposal that the Earth may contain a deep biosphere, where microorganisms may live several kilometers deep within the Earth, effectively isolated from the surface biosphere. This in turn has important implications for our search for life elsewhere in the universe. A key issue of this proposal is how could such life sustain itself? We propose a mechanism of Piezoelectrochemical Effect for the direct conversion of mechanical energy to chemical energy. This phenomenon is capable of hydrogen and oxygen via direct-water decomposition by means of as-synthesized quartz and other piezoelectric micro-crystals. Deformation of the piezoelectric crystals will lead to strain-induced electric charges development on crystals surfaces. With sufficient electric potential, strained piezoelectric crystals in water triggered the redox reaction of water to produce hydrogen and oxygen gases. This study provides a new insight for generating tectonic hydrogen for sustaining sub-surface microorganisms through deforming piezoelectric minerals like quartz in geological environments, and it may be an important process for sustaining the deep biosphere on Earth.
Sustaining a biosphere deep within rocks requires different energy flows than those associated with a surface biosphere. We propose a novel mechanism, a Piezoelectrochemical Effect (PZEC effect) for the direct conversion of mechanical energy to chemical energy. This phenomenon is further applied for generating hydrogen and oxygen via direct-water decomposition by means of as-synthesized piezoelectric quartz micro rods, ZnO micro-fibers and BaTiO3 micro-dendrites. Fibers and dendrites are vibrated with ultrasonic waves leading to a strain-induced electric charge development on their surface. With sufficient electric potential, strained piezoelectric fibers (and dendrites) in water triggered the redox reaction of water to produce hydrogen and oxygen gases. A stoichiometric ratio of H2: O2 (2:1) initial gas production from pure water has been demonstrated.
We have investigated the PZEC phenomenon takes place in geologic systems by employing natural strained quartz crystals for the direct conversion of mechanical energy to chemical energy. We propose a new pathway for the generation of hydrogen gas in nature through deformation in fault zones called Tectonic Hydrogen. PZEC effect is also valid in other naturally formed materials that contain quartz crystals. Sandstones for example contain large quantities of quartz grain; as a result, when under strain or stress the strained-induced charges accumulate on the quartz surface and the redox reaction of the water molecule attaching on the surface will be initialed with appropriate charge potential.