Monday, May 20, 2024

Researchers develop a cost-effective way to transform water into fuel

Increasing the supply of renewable energy would allow us to replace carbon-intensive energy sources and help mitigate climate change.

Researchers from the Nano and Molecular Systems Research Unit (NANOMO) at the University of Oulu in Finland have developed a cost-effective way to transform water into fuel. The new nickel-based catalyst uses sunlight to split water into oxygen and hydrogen, allowing them to harness hydrogen as a source of energy.

Hydrogen production through solar water splitting via semiconductor-based systems has been one of the common approaches to achieving a greener environment. However, because of high reagent costs, complicated materials synthesis processes, and limited hydrogen production efficiency, the development of new photocatalytic systems has recently been found effective for sunlight energy harvesting technologies.

“Solar water splitting directly converts solar energy into hydrogen fuel,” Harishchandra Singh, Adjunct Professor, said. “Since a renewable non-carbon source like solar is used, the hydrogen produced would also be a renewable source of energy in the true sense.”

With the help of the Brockhouse beamline at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) located at the University of Saskatchewan (USask), the researchers were able to analyze the materials they used for their catalyst. This allows them to understand why their design was so effective. “The beamline gives us access to very intense beams of high-energy x-rays, which allow us to see details on the surface of these materials that are hard to see with other techniques,” said Graham King, a scientist on the Brockhouse beamline.

Precious metals are often used in hydrogen fuel cells, which makes the production of hydrogen-based energy expensive. Instead, Singh and his team used nickel, which is considerably more affordable. Singh has been using synchrotron technology for years and relies on facilities like the CLS for his research on structural, building, and energy materials that can support a circular economy.

“Because interactions within the material are happening at the nanoscale, this research would be very hard without the synchrotron,” Singh said.

Journal reference:

  1. Parisa Talebi, Andrey A. Kistanov, Ekta Rani, Harishchandra Singh, Vladimir Pankratov, Viktorija Pankratovab, Graham King, Marko Huttula, Wei Cao. Unveiling the role of carbonate in nickel-based plasmonic core@shell hybrid nanostructure for photocatalytic water splitting. Applied Energy Volume 322, 15 September 2022, 119461. DOI: 10.1016/j.apenergy.2022.119461