Study shows solar energy can be ‘cleanly’ converted into storable hydrogen

The sun shines on the countryside

Research by the University of Strathclyde suggests that solar energy can be accessed and converted into hydrogen – a clean, renewable fuel.

Greenhouse gas emissions must be drastically reduced to avoid the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change, with access to clean and affordable energy needed to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels.

The British government plans to replace fossil fuels with the use of hydrogen, a storable fuel.

green hydrogen

Most hydrogen is still made from natural gas, producing greenhouse gases, and green hydrogen production is urgently needed. Green hydrogen is produced from water using a photocatalyst – a material that causes water to break down into hydrogen and oxygen using sunlight.

the study, “Global photocatalytic separation of water under visible light activated by an iridium-charged particulate conjugated polymer” is published in Angewandte Chemie, a journal of the German Chemical Society. This suggests that using a photocatalyst under simulated sunlight facilitates the breakdown of water when charged with an appropriate metal catalyst – in this case iridium.

When used in a fuel cell, hydrogen does not emit greenhouse gases at the point of use and can help decarbonize sectors such as shipping and transportation, where it can be used as fuel, as well as in manufacturing industries.

Solar energy study

Lead researcher Dr Sebastian Sprick, from Strathclyde, said: “An abundant renewable energy resource to meet the challenge of sustainable energy exists in the form of the Sun, with the energy reaching the Earth’s surface being eight a thousand times greater than all of the world’s annual energy needs. of our societies.

“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 can then be cleanly converted into electricity in a fuel cell. fuel, water being the only by-product.

This is a significant step forward for us, as previous systems relied on the use of so-called sacrificial reagents to drive the reaction. Sacrificial agents are the electron donors that reduce the tendency for electron recombination and accelerate the rate of hydrogen generation. Although these allow us researchers to understand the systems, they have made them “negative energy”.

“This study provides a way forward for further optimization as it is non-sacrificial. Photocatalysts (polymers) are of great interest because their properties can be tuned using synthetic approaches, allowing simple and systematic optimization of the structure in the future and further optimize the business.

The researchers say another potential benefit is that the polymers are printable, allowing cost-effective printing technologies to be used for scaling, much like newspaper printing.

Dr Sprick added: “It will also be important for large-scale hydrogen production to effectively tackle climate change.”

The study was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Councilwhich is part of UK Research and Innovation.

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