Nanocrystals convert solar energy into hydrogen

Thursday, 27 September, 2018 | Supplied by: Curtin University

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Australian researchers led by Curtin University have developed a low-cost and environmentally friendly method to harvest energy from sunlight, using tiny nanocrystals as highly efficient catalysts to generate solar energy for the production of clean fuels such as hydrogen. Their work has been published in the journal Advanced Materials.

“Previously, in order to use catalysts to derive energy from sunlight and transfer it into clean fuels such as hydrogen, we would have had to use cadmium-based semiconductors in combination with expensive noble metals including platinum, iridium and ruthenium,” said lead researcher Dr Guohua Jia.

“However, the high toxicity of cadmium and the high cost of noble metals are considerable obstacles to their widespread use.”

Dr Jia and his colleagues have now developed a more efficient and greener alternative to use solar energy to produce clean fuels. He said, “Our research invented tiny crystals that do not contain any noble and toxic metals, which can be directly used as environmentally friendly catalysts to convert solar energy into hydrogen.

“These nanomaterials may be of great interest to the energy industry, as they are made from cheap and near-abundant elements and offer industries a potential cleaner and cheaper fuel source.”

Dr Jia said the new method offers environmental and economic benefits that make it attractive to industry involved in the production of low-cost and low-emission clean hydrogen, which is considered a key fuel in the transition to a low-carbon economy. Hydrogen and other clean fuels can be used to power cars and a range of industrial processes, he said.

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