Researchers at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena are using a desktop inkjet printer to help solve the problem of turning solar energy directly into hydrogen. The researchers are printing out hundreds of dots of dissimilar materials on glass in order to assess how these materials react to sunlight and produce energy.
The scientists are using the inkjet printer to print out a large number of photoelectrodes such as metal oxide semiconductors to find the right combination of elements that will both provide long term stability and energy conversion efficiency when splitting water into hydrogen.
The point of this exercise is to print up to 200 different photoelectrodes at once and then test them and input the results into a database quickly for further analysis and refinement. This research is expected to yield a new photoactive semiconductor that is both cost-effective and efficient in splitting water into hydrogen.
Whenever I look at my own desktop printer I usually wonder about how much ink is left and if I have enough paper for the week. It is good to see scientists taking an imaginative approach with a common household item to try to solve the country’s energy problems.