Objective comparison of catalyst performance for development of artificial photosynthesis systems

June 1, 2015, US Department of Energy
Dr. Charles McCrory is setting up a rotating disk electrode experiment, which is used to measure a material’s catalytic activity and stability under conditions that are required for a working water-splitting device. These measurements follow a separate procedure in which the sample’s surface composition is characterized by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. Credit: Robert Paz

Turning sunlight into storable fuels efficiently requires stable Earth-abundant catalysts that efficiently convert a maximum amount of the solar energy into fuel. Previous studies have described a range of catalysts, but a lack of standardized analytic conditions and methods has made objectively comparing catalysts challenging. Researchers standardized measurement techniques to allow a quantitative, objective evaluation of the activity and stability of water-splitting catalysts.

This study fulfills a longstanding need for unbiased comparison of heterogeneous catalysts' performance in electrochemical water-splitting research and helps inform the development of new device components.

Researchers at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) have developed uniform benchmarking protocols and have used them to make "apples-to-apples" comparisons of the performance of more than forty catalysts for the evolution of hydrogen fuel and oxygen from water. Researchers evaluated the efficiency of each heterogeneous , measured as the amount of excess energy that would be required to create fuel in an artificial photosynthetic device operating about ten to a hundred times more efficiently than natural photosynthesis that occurs in crop plants. Researchers also determined the catalyst's stability under laboratory testing conditions. While the study confirmed the efficiency of many known catalysts, few of the Earth-abundant catalysts for making hydrogen and oxygen from water proved sufficiently active and stable in the conditions that are required for a practical solar fuels generating system, highlighting a priority for future research.

Explore further: Researchers discover new catalysts to generate renewable fuels

More information: "Benchmarking heterogeneous electrocatalysts for the oxygen evolution reaction." Journal of the American Chemical Society 135, 16977 (2013). DOI: 10.1021/ja407115p

"Benchmarking HER and OER electrocatalysts for solar water splitting devices." Journal of the American Chemical Society 137, 4347 (2015). DOI: 10.1021/ja510442p

Related Stories

Researchers discover new catalysts to generate renewable fuels

March 16, 2015

For the last seven years, Yale PhD student Staff Sheehan has been working on splitting water. Now, a paper just published in Nature Communications reveals how one of the methods he and his team have uncovered for this process—using ...

New nanomaterials will boost renewable energy

March 9, 2015

Global energy consumption is accelerating at an alarming rate. There are three main causes: rapid economic expansion, population growth, and increased reliance on energy-based appliances across the world.

Insights from nature for more efficient water splitting

June 30, 2014

Water splitting is one of the critical reactions that sustain life on earth, and could be a key to the creation of future fuels. It is a key in the process of photosynthesis, through which plants produce glucose and oxygen ...

Researchers harness nature to produce the fuel of the future

January 30, 2013

Hydrogen has tremendous potential as an eco-friendly fuel, but it is expensive to produce. Now researchers at Princeton University and Rutgers University have moved a step closer to harnessing nature to produce hydrogen for ...

Recommended for you

Materials chemists tap body heat to power 'smart garments'

January 22, 2019

Many wearable biosensors, data transmitters and similar tech advances for personalized health monitoring have now been "creatively miniaturized," says materials chemist Trisha Andrew at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.