In January of 2010 I talked about the University of Rochester in New York creating artificial leaves for hydrogen production. Now the same university is putting a slightly different bend on hydrogen production from a slightly different angle.
The catalyst for the artificial photosynthesis process doesn’t use platinum or any other expensive metals. Instead the process uses low cost nickel salts as catalysts. Of course the reactions occur at the nanoscale.
According to ieee Spectrum, “As the light absorber, the researchers used cadmium selenide particles from 2.5 to 5.5 nanometers in diameter, coated with a chemical agent to make them soluble in water. They used nickel salts as catalysts. The artificial photosynthesis system lasted for about 15 days and converted more than 7000 moles of hydrogen per mole of catalyst per hour. Another measure, quantum yield, was also high. For every 100 photons absorbed, 36 electrons were transferred to the catalyst. In natural photosynthesis, the equivalent number may be less than 10.
“It is an ‘incredibly robust’ system, says Daniel R. Gamelin, a professor of chemistry at the University of Washington, Seattle, who was not involved in the research. He also points out that the catalysts represent a shift to a less-expensive metal ion.”
So, there you have it. Just when you thought artificial photosynthesis was down and out, the researchers at the University of Rochester have given themselves smelling salts in the form of nickel salts to get back up off the matt and create hydrogen in a robust system. Stay tuned for the next several rounds as the results are very encouraging.