Underwater Plants Inspire More Efficient Solar Cells

Researchers in Korea have developed a new artificial leaf that can convert water into hydrogen with an efficiency of 7.7 percent.

AsianScientist (Jan. 13, 2017) – Researchers have developed an artificial leaf that mimics underwater photosynthesis of aquatic plants to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Their findings, published in Nature Communications, bring the efficiency of metal oxide-based hydrogen generation one step closer to practical applications.

Led by Professors Lee Jae Sung and Jang Ji-Wook of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), the team used two photoanodes of different bandgaps connected in parallel for extended light harvesting. This design was inspired by marine plants which do not receive the full spectrum of sunlight under the sea.

The hetero-type dual photoelectrodes in action. Credit: UNIST.

The dual photoanode silicon solar cell had a water splitting efficiency of 7.7 percent, close to the 10 percent target required for solar-powered hydrogen production to be practical.

“We aim to achieve ten percent enhanced light harvesting efficiency within three years,” Lee said. “This technology will greatly contribute to the establishment of the renewable-energy-type hydrogen refueling station by supplying cheap fuel for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.”

The article can be found at: Kim et al. (2016) Hetero-type Dual Photoanodes for Unbiased Solar Water Splitting with Extended Light Harvesting.


Source: Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology; Photo: reed/Flickr/CC.
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