Hydrogen fuel is a fickle mistress. On one hand, it teases us with the promise of renewable energy and a cleaner tomorrow. On the other hand, it’s most often produced with natural gas as the source — hardly the clean break from fossil fuels that many had envisioned. Fortunately, there are other methods to harness this abundant element, and a doctoral student at the University of Delaware may have created a worthwhile process. Similar to previous research we’ve seen — which relies on ceric oxide and energy from the sun — Eric Koepf has designed a reactor that combines zinc oxide powder, solar rays and water to derive hydrogen as a storable energy source. Most intriguing, it’s thought that the zinc oxide byproduct from the reaction will be reusable — a potential gateway to sustainable energy. Koepf will spend the next six weeks in Zurich at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, where his reactor prototype will be put through its paces to determine its efficiency and effectiveness. If successful, his advisors envision that one day, we may see giant versions of Koepf’s reactors producing hydrogen on an industrial scale. We certainly won’t fault them for dreaming big.