Research conducted by the University of Strathclyde shows that solar energy can be made available and converted into renewable and hydrogen storage.

Research conducted by Strathclyde University suggests that the use of a photocatalyst under simulated sunlight may facilitate the decomposition of water when loaded with iridium. This suggests that solar energy can be made available and converted into stored hydrogen fuel.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Greenhouse gas emissions must be significantly reduced in order to mitigate and potentially avoid the harmful effects of climate change, and access to clean and affordable energy is essential to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels. The UK government plans to replace fossil fuels by using hydrogen fuel for storage.

Most of the hydrogen is constantly produced by natural gas, which produces greenhouse gases, which means that the production of green hydrogen is urgently needed. Green hydrogen is created from water with the help of a photocatalyst – a material that drives the decomposition of water to stored hydrogen fuel and oxygen with the help of sunlight.

The results of the study “Photocatalytic complete separation of water in visible light, activated by a conjugated polymer of particles loaded with iridium” were published recently in German Chemical Society.

Photocatalyst for access to solar energy

Studies have shown that the use of a photocatalyst under simulated sunlight facilitates the decomposition of water when charged with a suitable metal catalyst – such as iridium.

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

“Abundant renewable energy to meet the challenge of sustainable energy exists in the form of the Sun, with energy reaching the earth’s surface eight thousand times greater than the total annual global energy needs of our societies,” said lead researcher Dr. Sebastian Sprick. from the University of Strathclyde.

Creation of hydrogen fuel for storage

“The reported photocatalyst can gain access to solar energy through energy-unfavorable processes to generate a stored energy carrier in the form of hydrogen from water. Hydrogen can then be converted purely into electricity into a fuel cell, with 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. The sacrificial agents are electron donors, which reduce the recombination tendency of electrons and accelerate the rate of hydrogen generation. Although they allow us as researchers to understand systems, they have made them “energy negative”.

“Photocatalysts (polymers) are of great interest, as their properties can be adjusted using synthetic approaches, which allows simple and systematic optimization of the structure in the future.”

Researchers have concluded that another potential advantage of this process is that polymers can be printed, which allows the use of cost-effective printing technologies to increase production, such as when printing newspapers.

Cleanly converting solar energy into storable hydrogen fuel

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