University of Tokyo researchers have developed photosensitive nanogels that are made into hydrogen nanogenerators. Researcher Kosuke Okeyoshi explains, “We have designed photoinduced hydrogen nanogenerators and fabricated them by a novel nanointegration method that uses nanogel as sensitizer and nanoparticles as catalyst. The nanogels involve a photoinduced electronic transmission circuit to realize a smart photoenergy-converting system.”
The researchers go onto say, “To fabricate their nanogenerator, the team first prepared positively charged nanogels as sensitizers and negatively charged platinum nanoparticles protected by anionic surfactant as catalysts. During the swollen state of the nanogels, the platinum nanoparticles are introduced into the interior from the surrounding solution by electrostatic interactions. Then, the temperature is increased while avoiding collapse and aggregation, and the network shrinks to physically immobilize the platinum nanoparticles in the gel.”
Of course this is leading edge science at work here. There are also other methods of solar-to-hydrogen production being worked on at the moment. The scientists doing the research are thinking small scale right now, but if this system works as expected, scaling up the hydrogen production may be an option in the future.