Scientists and experts around the world have wondered for years what are the best materials to produce solar fuels efficiently and at low cost. Well, a team of researchers in the United States from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is conducting an investigation that seeks to find New ways to economically and efficiently transform water into the fuel of the future.

What are solar fuels?

Solar fuels convert the sun’s energy into liquid fuel by mimicking the process of photosynthesis in plants: capturing energy from the sun and storing it in a series of chemical bonds through the splitting of water and carbon dioxide.

How are solar fuels obtained?

A water molecule is made up of two atoms of hydrogen and one oxygen. The separation of hydrogen atoms from oxygen is a very expensive process, both energetically and economically. Therefore, it is necessary to use catalysts; certain compounds which lower the energy required to a certain level in which sunlight is effective. When hydrogens are separated, they combine with carbon dioxide to form hydrocarbons.

The research team California Institute of Technology and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory tried to develop a series of efficient and inexpensive catalytic materials: known as photo anodes, capable of breaking down the water molecule using sunlight.

Over the past 40 years, a total of 16 photoanodes have been identified, 12 for this American research group in the past two years. A big step towards a more sustainable world.

The previous material identification processes were very tedious, taking years. With this new method, where are included computer studies and laboratory experimentation, the search for new photoanodes is a much more efficient and less expensive process.

Solar energy, leader in the renewable energy sector

Today the sun is the source of renewable energy more abundant in the world and, in addition, it is cheaper than others like wind power. This is why it is the one that has made the most progress since 2000 in the world. In just a decade, the accumulated capacity in Europe has increased 75 times. To date, the country with the largest installed solar power capacity is China.

The research was published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.