Rice University engineers are turning sunlight into hydrogen with record-breaking efficiency thanks to a device that combines next-generation halide perovskite semiconductors with electrocatalysts in a single, durable, cost-effective, and scalable device.
The photoreactor splits water molecules and generates hydrogen when stimulated by simulated sunlight. The lab of chemical and biomolecular engineer Aditya Mohite built the integrated photoreactor using an anticorrosion barrier that insulates the semiconductor from water without impeding the transfer of electrons. The device achieved a 20.8 percent solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency. The device is known as a photoelectrochemical cell because the absorption of light, its conversion into electricity, and the use of the electricity to power a chemical reaction all occur in the same device. Until now, using photoelectrochemical technology to produce green hydrogen was hampered by low efficiencies and the high cost of semiconductors. The Mohite lab and its collaborators have shown their device design works for different reactions and with different semiconductors, making it applicable across many systems.
Rice University, Houston, TX
Using sunlight as an energy source to manufacture chemicals is one of the largest hurdles to a clean energy economy. The new technology could serve as a platform for a wide range of chemical reactions that use solar-harvested electricity to convert feedstocks into fuels.
According to the team, with further improvements to stability and scale, this technology could open up the hydrogen economy in future.