Scientists have successfully split water into hydrogen and oxygen using lightweight, meticulously designed catalysts, and they have done so with maximum efficiency, meaning there is almost no loss. or unwanted side reactions.
Pour yourself a glass of water and take a look. This water contains an abundant source of fuel, hydrogen. Hydrogen burns cleanly unlike petroleum-based energy products. Sounds too good to be true? Japanese scientists have successfully split water into hydrogen and oxygen using lightweight, meticulously designed catalysts, and they have done so with maximum efficiency, meaning there has been virtually no loss. or unwanted side reactions.
This latest advance in solar hydrogen production makes the production of hydrogen economically viable and scalable more than likely, paving the way for humanity to switch to clean energy.
The separation of water by catalysts and sunlight, called photocatalysis, has been a promising method for achieving solar hydrogen production for decades. However, most previous attempts have only achieved an external quantum efficiency of less than 50%, which represents the difficulty of designing an efficient catalyst for use in the real world. The catalyst had to be better designed so that every photon absorbed by the light source was used to produce hydrogen. The key to improving efficiency was the strategic placement of co-catalysts and the prevention of defects in the semiconductor.
Posted in the May 27 issue of Nature, Shinshu University’s Tsuyoshi Takata and others broke new frontiers in energy production using aluminum-doped strontium titanate as a photocatalyst, whose properties have been widely studied and therefore best understood. They choose rhodium for hydrogen as a cocatalyst with chromium oxide and cobalt oxide for oxygen, setting them to be used only for desired reactions. This method allowed the reaction to have no recombination losses.
These new discoveries open the doors to an economically viable and scalable solar hydrogen production. Their design strategies have succeeded in reducing defects leading to near perfect efficiency, and the knowledge gained will be applied to other materials with strong absorption of visible light. More work is still needed before we can run our cars on hydrogen, as this study focused on the use of ultraviolet light and the abundant visible light from the sun was not used.
However, this breakthrough has meant that this possibility is no longer too good to be true, but in theory, it’s only a matter of time. Hopefully this will encourage scientists, researchers and engineers to get involved in this field, bringing the use of solar energy much closer to hydrogen.
More information: www.nature.com