Researchers at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill have created a new way to use sunlight to split water and extract the hydrogen for fuel. Tom Meyer and his team have invented a dye-sensitized photoelectrosynthesis cell, or DSPEC to do the water splitting.
According to UNC, “The new system designed by Meyer and colleagues at UNC and with Greg Parson’s group at NC State University does exactly that. Known as a dye-sensitized photoelectrosynthesis cell, or DSPEC, it generates hydrogen fuel by using the sun’s energy to split water into its component parts. After the split, hydrogen is sequestered and stored, while the byproduct, oxygen, is released into the air …
“…Meyer had been investigating DSPECs for years at the Energy Frontier Research Center at UNC and before. His design has two basic components: a molecule and a nanoparticle. The molecule, called a chromophore-catalyst assembly, absorbs sunlight and then kick starts the catalyst to rip electrons away from water. The nanoparticle, to which thousands of chromophore-catalyst assemblies are tethered, is part of a film of nanoparticles which shuttles the electrons away to make the hydrogen fuel.”
The turning point, however, came when the team started laying down layers of titanium dioxide, atom by atom, on the nanoparticle. This freed up the necessary electrons to make hydrogen fuel.