Timon Singh

Brilliant Teenager Invents Device That Produces Clean Energy AND Fresh Water!

by , 08/16/14
filed under: News, Renewable Energy

Google Science Fair 2014, H2Pro, renewable energy, photocatalytic technology, Cynthia Lam, solar technology, clean water, clean electricity, Cynthia Sin Nga Lam, Australian teen, teen scientists, wonder kids, Google Science Project, Google Project, water issues, humanitarian design, social design, clean tech, green tech

Google has announced the finalists of this year’s Google Science Fair and the line-up is impressive. But among the 15 inventions designed to make the world a better place, Cynthia Sin Nga Lam’s submission is definitely a major standout. Concerned about the millions of people living without energy and water, the 17-year-old student scientist from Australia built H2Pro – a Portable Photocatalytic Electricity Generation and Water Purification Unit that produces both clean energy and fresh water at the same time.


With the H2Pro, Cynthia aims to tackle two problems at once: how to provide clean water and electricty to the many people around the world who have neither. Currently 780 million people lack access to clean water, while 1.2 billion live without electricity. The H2Pro could change that using photocatalytic technology, which simultaneously purifies water and generates electricity using only sunlight.

In her application, Cynthia explains that while investigating photocatalysis, she stumbled upon the idea of the H2Pro.

“In photocatalysis, not only water is purified and sterilized, but hydrogen is also produced through water-splitting, which can be used to generate electricity,” says Cynthia.

Related: 11-Year-Old’s Fantastical Water-Purifying Machine Wins 2014 Doodle 4 Google Competition

“The entire process only needs titania and light — no additional power source is required. However, hydrogen production is generally low since photoexcited electrons tend to fall back to the hole (i.e. photoinduced electron-hole combination.) Fortunately, it can be overcome by adding reductants, while some organic pollutants serve such purpose. Hence, I propose to combine the two mechanisms together to enhance the yield and lower the cost of hydrogen generation, meanwhile efficient water purification can also be achieved.”

While there are other designs that have proposed a similiar method, they often require an external power source, which means they can’t be used in remote locations. Cynthia aims to change that via photocatalysis, which can be applied in a manageable scale that allows water purification and electricity production to be economically and sustainably performed. It’s an excellent humanitarian design and a strong contender for the top prize. Good luck Cynthia!

For information on all the other finalists, click here.

+ Google Science Fair

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9 Comments

  1. Sierra Sika September 14, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    You can’t “use up” hydrogen. Matter can neither be created or destroyed. Hydrogen combines with oxygen to create water. When the world has a “shortage” of an element it is not because we “used it up” but rather that it is in a place or form that makes it too difficult for us to obtain access to it or use it. I highly doubt this will ever happen to hydrogen. Also the way mars is isn’t because of hydrogen. It actually has to do with it’s thin atmosphere do to no molten core. I’d explain more but really all you have to do is take a basic chemistry class and really the whole point here is that this girl is brilliant and is doing something great for our future! I applaud her for her ingenuity and selflessness!

  2. Sirr0n September 5, 2014 at 12:33 am

    @Adam Sizzons

    I’m pretty sure we will not ‘run out’ of Hydrogen and become like Mars (I have no idea how you connected Hydrogen loss and Mars). There are two Hydrogen atoms on every molecule of water. Water covers 70% of the planet. And in case you don’t know, if you burn Hydrogen in the presence of Oxygen it turns into… water. Think circle, think going round and round… you’ll get it someday.

    PS. The real question to ask is who’s your daddy?

  3. AD Mitchell August 29, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    This was already achieved when she was born http://www.uta.edu/cos/raj/pub/PureAppl.Chem..pdf\\\’

  4. etbi August 19, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    Wonderful concept. Google should fund her to go to college and work on her concept with help from Google\’s marketing people. My guess is she should go to either MIT or Stanford, but there may be a good school in Australia.

  5. indichas August 17, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    “The entire process only needs titania and light-” When she refers to ‘titania’, is she referring to Titanium Dioxide (TiO2), a substance that is leached from ore and is used primarily as a pigment for white paint?

  6. Stephanie Davis August 17, 2014 at 10:03 am

    Adam, she is freeing hydrogen from H2O using photocatalysis. She is not “using it up”

  7. ez August 16, 2014 at 11:30 pm

    Thank god for people like you that are thinking about the other people on the planet and doing something about it! You go girl! (and an Aussie to boot, Yay!) me too!

  8. Adam Sizzons August 14, 2014 at 3:25 am

    Yea, problem is, there is not enough hydrogen gas on this planet to start using it as an energy resource. Do you want to make this planet go like mars?

  9. Justin Goro August 14, 2014 at 2:10 am

    Can this be applied to sea water?

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