By using the sun to separate hydrogen from water, scientists at the University of Michigan have found a way to increase the effectiveness of solar water splitting. This method mimics photosynthesis.
The scientists were able to boost the rate of solar water splitting and increase the amount of hydrogen they could capture by harvesting infrared radiation.
The study found that the novel solar panels had a 9% effectiveness in splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. This method offers a significant advance in technology and is around ten times more effective than prior tests that split water using solar light.
One of the most potential routes to carbon neutrality is the production of hydrogen fuel from sunshine and water, the two most plentiful natural resources on Earth. Directly from sunshine and water, clean hydrogen can be created using photocatalytic water separation.
With hydrogen continuing to gain popularity as a viable substitute for fossil fuels, this process might offer a safe, affordable, and effective way to make hydrogen. By using fewer semiconductors, which are often the most expensive component of the device, this approach primarily lowers the cost of sustainable hydrogen.
The team’s designed semiconductors can tolerate focused light with 160 suns’ worth of energy.
Currently, a lot of fossil fuel energy is used to make hydrogen. However, plants need sunshine to draw hydrogen atoms from the water. Hydrogen is appealing as a standalone fuel and as a component of sustainable fuels derived from recycled carbon dioxide as humanity works to reduce carbon emissions.
High temperatures hasten the splitting of water, and the additional heat promotes hydrogen and oxygen to separate rather than re-bond and create new water.
The results showed that this approach converted water into hydrogen with an efficiency of 9.2% for internal testing and 6.1% for external tests (in open spaces). Additionally, this approach significantly outperforms earlier approaches, which were only able to attain efficiency of less than 3%.
The ability to focus sunlight without damaging the semiconductors that receive it and the ability to split water using the higher energy portion of the solar spectrum while using the lower portion to produce the heat that initiates the reaction are two of the team’s most significant discoveries, according to the researchers.