Israeli team chalks up breakthrough in hydrogen energy

16 maart 2016

Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have recently made a significant breakthrough in alternative energy production, reaching perfect photon-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency.

 

Splitting water for energy production is a two-step process, divided into reduction and oxidation. In a paper published in the scientific journal Nano Letters, researchers Lilac Amirav, Philip Kalisman, and Yifat Nakibli explained they were able to perform the reduction phase with 100% efficiency, a sharp increase from the previous record of 60% for hydrogen production with visible light. Future research should focus on the oxidation phase, to realize practical overall water splitting, they said.

 

“Our work shows that it is possible to obtain perfect, 100% photon-to-hydrogen production efficiency, under visible light illumination, for the photocatalytic water splitting reduction half-reaction. These results shatter the previous benchmarks for all systems, and leave little to no room for improvement for this particular half-reaction. With a stable system and a turnover frequency of 360,000 moles of hydrogen per hour per mole of catalyst, the potential here is real,” Amirav said in the paper.

Speaking with the research and technology website Phys.org, she said, “I strongly believe that the search for clean and renewable energy sources is crucial. With the looming energy crisis on one hand, and environmental aspects, mainly global warming, on the other, I think this is our duty to try and amend the problem for the next generation.”

 

A press release posted on the Technion’s website said the breakthrough was the result of a lengthy process resulting in the development of advanced artificial materials that can be used as catalysts for the conversion process.

 

“We hope to implement our design rules, experience and accumulated insights for the construction of a system capable of overall water splitting and genuine solar-to-fuel energy conversion,” said Amirav. “I believe this is an important milestone.”

 

Hydrogen fuel is considered a promising alternative source of energy, as it is water-derived, making it clean, efficient and, for the most part, free of political controversies. The photocatalytic processes used in hydrogen energy production are relevant to other fields as well, including wastewater treatment.