Two recent studies, both concerning solar energy used to produce hydrogen may help PEM fuel cells become more efficient and effective. One set of research is from Great Britain at the University of East Anglia. The second research study is from the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC).
At the University of East Anglia the scientists are using a gold electrode covered with indium phosphide (InP) nanoparticles and then layered with an iron-sulfur complex, [Fe2S2(CO)6]. Just add water and light to this photoelectrocatalytic system and the scientists were able to achieve 60-percent efficiency.
At UCSC the researchers are using a photoelectrochemical (PEC) reaction to create a direct solar to hydrogen production inside the solar cell itself. The system uses a light absorbing anode and two different techniques called elemental doping and quantum dot sensitization.
Either one of these techniques is efficient in causing a reaction and producing hydrogen, but by combining techniques, higher efficiency can be demonstrated.
According to Nanotechnology Now, “The researchers synthesized thin films of titanium dioxide nanoparticles, as well as titanium dioxide nanowire arrays vertically aligned in a thin film on a substrate. The titanium dioxide films were doped with nitrogen, and cadmium selenide nanoparticles were used for quantum dot sensitization. The resulting nanostructured composite materials were then used as photoanodes in a PEC cell to compare their performance in carefully controlled experiments.”
I’ve talked about the merits of using direct solar to hydrogen technology before. These two studies add more weight to the discussion that solar to hydrogen will be a viable method in the near future for large scale production of H2.