Nav: Home

Research gives new ray of hope for solar fuel

April 27, 2018

The quest to develop the 'Holy Grail' of affordable, viable and environmentally-friendly fuels using sunlight has taken an exciting new twist.

A team of Renewable Energy experts from the University of Exeter has pioneered a new technique to produce hydrogen from sunlight to create a clean, cheap and widely-available fuel.

The team developed an innovative method to split water into its constituent parts - hydrogen and oxygen - using sunlight. The hydrogen can then be used as a fuel, with the potential to power everyday items such as homes and vehicles.

Crucially, hydrogen fuel that can be created through this synthetic photosynthesis method would not only severely reduce carbon emissions, but would also create a virtually limitless energy source.

The ground-breaking new research centres on the use of a revolutionary photo-electrode - an electrode that absorbs light before initializing electrochemical transformations to extract the hydrogen from water - made from nanoparticles of the elements lanthanum, iron and oxygen.

The researchers believe this new type of photo-electrode is not only cheap to produce, but can also be recreated on a larger scale for mass and worldwide use.

The research is published in leading journal, Scientific Reports.

Govinder Pawar, lead author on the paper and based at the University of Exeter's Environment and Sustainability Institute on the Penryn Campus in Cornwall said: "With growing economies and population, fossil fuels will not be able to sustain the global energy demand in a "clean" manner as they are being exhausted at an alarming rate.

"Alternative renewable fuels sources must be found which can sustain the global energy demand. Hydrogen is a promising alternative fuel source capable of replacing fossil fuels as it has a higher energy density than fossil fuels (more than double), zero carbon emissions and the only by-product is water."

At present, around 85 per cent of the global energy provisions come from the burning of fossil fuels. Therefore the need and desire to find a sustainable, cost-effective renewable fuel source is growing in urgency.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the sun is earth's most abundant renewable energy source, with the potential to provide 100,000 terawatts of power each year - meaning one hour's worth of solar energy is equal to an entire year of total energy consumption worldwide.

However, efforts to produce efficient stable semiconductor material, in order to effectively convert sunlight to a storable widespread energy source, have so far proved elusive.

One of the most significant hindrances to the development of viable solar energy has been an inability to produce a semiconducting material suitable for the process.

In this new research, the team utilised lanthanum iron oxide to create a semiconducting material that gave the ideal results for the production of hydrogen from water using sunlight, making it the strongest candidate yet for renewable hydrogen generation.

Govinder Pawar added: "We have shown that our LaFeO3 photo-electrode has ideal band alignments needed to split water into its constituents (H2 and O2) spontaneously, without the need of an external bias. Moreover, our material has excellent stability where after 21 hours of testing it does not degrade, ideal for water splitting purpose. We are currently working on further improving our material to make it more efficient to produce more hydrogen."

Unbiased Spontaneous Solar fuel Production using Stable LaFeO3 Photoelectrode is published in Scientific Reports.
-end-


University of Exeter

Related Hydrogen Articles:

Paving the way for hydrogen fuel cells
The hype around hydrogen fuel cells has died down, but scientists have continued to pursue new technologies that could enable such devices to gain a firmer foothold.
Keeping the hydrogen coming
A coating of molybdenum improves the efficiency of catalysts for producing hydrogen.
Hydrogen bonds directly detected for the first time
For the first time, scientists have succeeded in studying the strength of hydrogen bonds in a single molecule using an atomic force microscope.
Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen
Hydrogen is both the simplest and the most-abundant element in the universe, so studying it can teach scientists about the essence of matter.
Metallic hydrogen, once theory, becomes reality
Nearly a century after it was theorized, Harvard scientists have succeeded in creating metallic hydrogen.
From theory to reality: The creation of metallic hydrogen
For more than 80 years, it has been predicted that hydrogen will adopt metallic properties under certain conditions, and now researchers have successfully demonstrated this phenomenon.
Artificial leaf goes more efficient for hydrogen generation
A new study, affiliated with Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology has introduced a new artificial leaf that generates hydrogen, using the power of the Sun to mimic underwater photosynthesis.
Hydrogen from sunlight -- but as a dark reaction
The storage of photogenerated electric energy and its release on demand are still among the main obstacles in artificial photosynthesis.
New process produces hydrogen at much lower temperature
Waseda University researchers have developed a new method for producing hydrogen, which is fast, irreversible, and takes place at much lower temperature using less energy.
Hydrogen in your pocket? New plastic for carrying and storing hydrogen
A Waseda University research group has developed a polymer which can store hydrogen in a light, compact and flexible sheet, and is safe to touch even when filled with hydrogen gas.

Related Hydrogen Reading:

The One-Minute Cure: The Secret to Healing Virtually All Diseases
by Madison Cavanaugh (Author)

Hydrogen: The Essential Element
by John S. Rigden (Author)

Hydrogen Fuel: Production, Transport, and Storage
by Ram B. Gupta (Editor)

The Hydrogen Sonata (Culture)
by Iain M. Banks (Author)

The Magic of Hydrogen Peroxide
by Emily Thacker (Author)

2014 True Power of Hydrogen Peroxide, Miracle Path To Wellness - Mary Wright, goes beyond One Minute Cure
by Mary Wright (Author)

Hydrogen (Chemistry of Everyday Elements)
by Kathryn Hulick (Author)

Hydrogen (Exploring the Elements)
by Clara Maccarald (Author)

Hydrogen Peroxide and Aloe Vera - A Home Remedies Handbook
by Conrad LeBeau (Author), Conrad LeBeau (Editor), Conrad LeBeau (Editor)

Hydrogen Peroxide Cure: Learn the Extraordinary Cures, Benefits, and Healing Properties this Magical Elixir has to Offer Using Hydrogen Peroxide to ... and Health Benefits of Hydrogen Peroxide)
by Juliette McKnight (Author)

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

The Story Behind The Numbers
Is life today better than ever before? Does the data bear that out? This hour, TED speakers explore the stories we tell with numbers — and whether those stories portray the full picture. Guests include psychologist Steven Pinker, economists Tyler Cowen and Michael Green, journalist Hanna Rosin, and environmental activist Paul Gilding.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#487 Knitting in PEARL
This week we're discussing math and things made from yarn. We welcome mathematician Daina Taimina to the show to discuss her book "Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes: Tactile Mathematics, Art and Craft for all to Explore", and how making geometric models that people can play with helps teach math. And we speak with research scientist Janelle Shane about her hobby of training neural networks to do things like name colours, come up with Halloween costume ideas, and generate knitting patterns: often with hilarious results. Related links: Crocheting the Hyperbolic Plane by Daina Taimina and David Henderson Daina's Hyperbolic Crochet blog...