Hydrogen power moves a step closer

September 14, 2017, Lancaster University
Fossil fuels accounted for almost 90 percent of energy consumption in 2015. Credit: Lancaster University

Physicists at Lancaster University are developing methods of creating renewable fuel from water using quantum technology.

Renewable hydrogen can already be produced by photoelectrolysis where solar power is used to split into oxygen and hydrogen.

But, despite significant research effort over the past four decades, fundamental problems remain before this can be adopted commercially due to inefficiency and lack of cost-effectiveness.

Dr Manus Hayne from the Department of Physics said: "For research to progress, innovation in both materials development and device design is clearly needed."

The Lancaster study, which formed part of the PhD research of Dr Sam Harrison, and is published in Scientific Reports, provides the basis for further experimental work into the solar production of hydrogen as a .

It demonstrates that the novel use of nanostructures could increase the maximum photovoltage generated in a photoelectrochemical cell, increasing the productivity of splitting water molecules.

Dr Hayne said: "To the authors' best knowledge, this system has never been investigated either theoretically or experimentally, and there is huge scope for further work to expand upon the results presented here."

Fossil fuels accounted for almost 90% of energy consumption in 2015, with absolute demand still increasing due to a growing global population and increasing industrialisation.

Dr Manus Hayne said: "Fossil-fuel combustion releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, causing , and there is only a finite amount of them available for extraction. We clearly need to transition to a renewable and low-greenhouse-gas energy infrastructure, and is expected to play an important role."

Photovoltaic solar cells are currently used to convert sunlight directly into electricity but has the advantage that it is easily stored, so it can be used as and when needed.

Hydrogen is also very flexible, making it highly advantageous for remote communities. It can be converted to electricity in a fuel cell, or burnt in a boiler or cooker just like natural gas. It can even be used to fuel aircraft.

Explore further: GPM satellite finds sheared Hurricane Jose has very tall storms

More information: S. Harrison et al, Photoelectrolysis Using Type-II Semiconductor Heterojunctions, Scientific Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-11971-x

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6 comments

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Shootist
3 / 5 (2) Sep 14, 2017
Build 100 1000 megawatt fission plants and you'll be able to mine as much H2 as you could wish for.
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Sep 14, 2017
you mean... from the cooling ponds...?
MR166
not rated yet Sep 14, 2017
Professor Irwin Cory would be proud of this article!
barakn
5 / 5 (1) Sep 15, 2017
I'm no fan of the petroleum industry, but hydrogen is a horrible fuel.
jimbo92107
not rated yet Sep 15, 2017
Man, talk about a blue sky article. This is like telling me there's maybe a sky, and it might even be blue. Yeah, research into nanostructures is good. Do we need a paper to tell us that?
rrrander
not rated yet Sep 16, 2017
Hydrogen is an always will be expensive to produce and dangerous.

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