Crystals could change the way solar energy is used

Tuesday, 17 June, 2008

University of Queensland researchers have made a discovery that produces highly efficient miniature crystals which could change the way solar energy is used and harvested.

“We have grown the world’s first titanium oxide single crystals with large amounts of reactive surfaces, something that was predicted as almost impossible,” said Professor Max Lu, from UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN).

“Highly active surfaces in such crystals allow high reactivity and efficiency in devices used for solar energy conversion and hydrogen production.

“Titania nano-crystals are promising materials for cost-effective solar cells, hydrogen production from splitting water and solar decontamination of pollutants."

Lu said that these crystals could also be used to purify air and water.

“The same principle for such materials to convert sunlight to electricity is also working to break down pollutants in water and air," Lu said.

“One could paint these crystals onto a window or a wall to purify the air in a room."

Lu said it would be about five years for the water and air pollution applications to be commercially available, and about 5 to 10 years for the solar energy conversion using such crystals.

 

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