According to RenewEconomy, researchers from the Australian National University and the University of New South Wales have achieved a new world record for producing renewable hydrogen from solar energy using low-cost components. The scientists were able to obtain a solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency of more than 20%.
The researchers combined tandem solar cells with low-cost catalyst materials to electrolyze water and split it into hydrogen and oxygen.
Dr. Siva Karuturi of Australian National University, one of the study’s co-authors, told RenewEconomy that his team’s unique strategy of merging solar cells and hydrogen electrolyzers into a single unit might result in considerable increases in production efficiency and cost savings.
“In a centralized electrolyzer, which is normally powered by grid electricity, membranes and electrodes are stacked in large numbers – frequently hundreds – to achieve the needed production capacity, resulting in a complicated system,” Karuturi explained.
In direct photovoltaic (PV)-electrolysis, a single unit of electrodes and membrane can be directly combined with PV cells to create a simplified solar hydrogen module, eliminating the need for power infrastructure and electrolyzers and resulting in higher power conversion efficiency and lower costs, according to Karuturi.
According to the researchers, their innovative design might bring the cost of renewable hydrogen generation down to $2.30 per kilogram. This would be in line with the United States Department of Energy’s aims.
This is encouraging news as the globe works toward achieving net zero emissions by 2050, a goal that has sparked a slew of green hydrogen initiatives. Another energy breakthrough in 2017 was the utilization of a floating solar rig to manufacture hydrogen fuel from saltwater. However, that technology is still rather expensive.