ECS’s Nate Lewis is propelling his vision of efficient and affordable alternative energy sources with the new development of an “artificial leaf” system that splits water through solar energy to create hydrogen fuel.
“This new system shatters all of the combined safety, performance, and stability records for artificial leaf technology by factors of 5 to 10 or more,” says Lewis, a 33-year ECS member and scientific director of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis.
Shattering Water Splitting Records
He and his team, including postdoctoral scholar and ECS member Ke Sun, were able to achieve recording-setting outcomes through the development of a advice with three novel components: two electrodes, one photoanode and one photocathode, and a membrane.
This from Futurity:
The photoanode uses sunlight to oxidize water molecules, generating protons and electrons as well as oxygen gas. The photocathode recombines the protons and electrons to form hydrogen gas.
Lewis is a renowned researcher in artificial photosynthesis and electrochemical energy. He and his group have taken many steps to achieve the final design.
Some of the key elements include a plastic membrane to separate oxygen and hydrogen gases, and an inexpensive catalyst for fuel production.
While conducting this research, the team discovered that they can eliminate using the expensive platinum as a catalyst by adding a 2-nanometer-thick layer of nickel to the surface of the TiO2.
Potential in Alternative Energy
On a practical end, the system can convert 10 percent of the sun’s energy into stored energy in chemical fuel. Additionally, it can operate at this level for more than 40 continuous hours.
“Our work shows that it is indeed possible to produce fuels from sunlight safely and efficiently in an integrated system with inexpensive components,” Lewis adds, “Of course, we still have work to do to extend the lifetime of the system and to develop methods for cost-effectively manufacturing full systems, both of which are in progress.”
PS: Join Lewis and other brilliant scientific minds by becoming a member of ECS today!