An alternative process, photocatalytic water splitting, aims to produce hydrogen by creating an artificial photosynthesis that splits apart water molecules.
Theoretically simpler, water splitting is highly researched due to the abundance of renewable water on the planet.
Water splitting consists of two main steps: reduction and oxidation. Starting with two H2O molecules, the oxidation step produces four hydrogen atoms and discards the remaining O2 molecule; the reduction step uses electrons to pair the hydrogen into two H2 molecules, thus producing the desirable gas.
In a breakthrough new study, scientists just confirmed for the first time that they have perfected the reduction half of the procedure, thus coming one step closer to completing a totally efficient photocatalytic water splitting process.
With specially-designed 50-nanometer nanorods to absorb photons and work as the necessary catalysts in the process, researchers Philip Kalisman, Yifat Nakibli, and Lilac Amirav of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel were able able to deliver 100% effective results for the first time.
Amirav said, “Our work shows that it is possible to obtain a 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 […] the potential here is real.”
100% efficiency in this case means that all of the photons that reach the nanorod catalysts generate electrons, which in turn produce an H2 molecule (reduction).
In terms of moving forward, Amirav said, “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.
“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.”
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