When there's a good idea around, there's more than one person pursuing it. And so it turns out that the artificial photosynthesis we covered recently isn't the only approach being pursued to produce hydrogen using only water and sunlight. A team of scientists from the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University and others at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) are also working on a method to generate hydrogen from water using sunlight.
This form of photo-electrochemical (PEC) water splitting uses molybdenum sulfide as a catalyst rather than platinum. Platinum has been known to work as a catalyst for PEC water splitting, but it is also a particularly rare and expensive mineral, which makes it problematic for widespread use. In addition to developing an inexpensive catalyst, the research has also worked on light absorbers to capture as much light energy as possible.
"The experimental researchers at DTU designed light absorbers that consist of silicon arranged in closely packed pillars, and dotted the pillars with tiny clusters of the molybdenum sulfide. When they exposed the pillars to light, hydrogen gas bubbled up—as quickly as if they'd used costly platinum," according to a press release.
Most hydrogen currently used in industrial and vehicular uses comes from processing natural gas to create hydrogen. This is, of course, a carbon emitting process, and does not offer a sustainable method to develop a hydrogen-based infrastructure for power and/or transportation. But, if any of these current methods turns out to be affordable, scalable, and safe, then the hydrogen future may be more than just a fanciful idea.
via: DOE Energy Blog
written by Asaf Shalgi, May 14, 2011
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