A new method to generate hydrogen fuel from the Sun using Earth-abundant materials has been discovered by scientists.
At the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces at EPFL, scientists have developed methods for generating fuels such as hydrogen through solar water splitting.
To do this, they either use photoelectrochemical cells that directly split water into hydrogen and oxygen when exposed to sunlight, or they combine electricity-generating cells with an electrolyzer that separates the water molecules.
The device converts into hydrogen 12.3 percent of the energy diffused by the sun on perovskite absorbers, which is a compound that can be obtained in the laboratory from common materials, such as those used in conventional car batteries, eliminating the need for rare-earth metals in the production of usable hydrogen fuel.
Researcher Jingshan Luo said that both the perovskite used in the cells and the nickel and iron catalysts making up the electrodes require resources that are abundant on Earth and that are also cheap, but their electrodes work just as well as the expensive platinum-based models customarily used.
On the other hand, the conversion of solar energy into hydrogen makes its storage possible, which addresses one of the biggest disadvantages faced by renewable electricity, that is, the requirement to use it at the time it is produced.
The study is published in the journal Science.