Last month, Japanese researchers from Shinshu University in Nagano developed a two-step method that is dramatically more efficient at generating hydrogen, a clean and renewable fuel, from a photocatalytic reaction. The team, however, indicated that they needed to engineer an improvement of the technology's efficiency to make it practically useful.
This improvement may finally be here!
Access and conversion to hydrogen
University of Strathclyde researchers have now suggested that solar energy can now be easily accessed and converted into hydrogen thanks to a new innovation, according to a statement by the institution published on Thursday.
“An abundant renewable energy resource to address the challenge of sustainable energy exists in the form of the Sun, with the energy reaching Earth's surface eight thousand times greater than the entire annual global energy need of our societies," said in the press release Principal Investigator, Dr Sebastian Sprick, from Strathclyde.
“The reported photocatalyst can access solar energy through energetically unfavorable processes to generate a storable energy carrier in the form of hydrogen from water. The hydrogen then can be converted cleanly into electricity in a fuel cell with water being the only side-product."
“This study provides a way forward to optimize further as it is not sacrificial. The photocatalysts (polymers) are of huge interest as their properties can be tuned using synthetic approaches, allowing for simple and systematic optimization of the structure in the future and to optimize activity further.”
The decomposition of water
The new study indicates that using a photocatalyst under simulated sunlight, when loaded with an appropriate metal catalyst (in this case iridium), promotes the decomposition of water into widely usable hydrogen.
This is a great development in the fight against climate change as, when used in a fuel cell, hydrogen does not emit any greenhouse gasses. The gas can therefore help decarbonize sectors such as shipping and transportation, where it can be used as a fuel, as well as in manufacturing industries.