New catalyst in water splitting could improve hydrogen generation

Scientists synthesise a highly active organic material to obtain hydrogen fuel from water using sunlight.


With hydrogen 's widely recognised role as a safe and clean energy carrier, research into its production, particularly from renewable sources, has intensified. One of several pathways to generate hydrogen is the separation of water using sunlight with the help of photocatalysts. Partially supported by the EU-funded DYNAPORE project, researchers have synthesised a new organic material for photocatalytic solar hydrogen production, or water splitting. Their findings were published recently in the journal ‘Nature Chemistry’.

According to a news release posted on the University of Liverpool website, the team combined experiments and computation for developing the photocatalyst. Photocatalytic water splitting using sunlight is seen as a promising technology that can provide high-energy yield without pollutant by-products. This is possible only if the energy in sunlight can be harvested effectively, as explained in the news release. “Inorganic materials are better known as water splitting catalysts, but organic catalysts can also be built from cheap abundant elements, such as carbon, nitrogen, and sulphur.” Xiaoyan Wang, a chemistry PhD student who led the experimental work at the University, said: “To achieve high hydrogen evolution rates, you need good water affinity, broad light adsorption, high surface area, and high crystallinity. By introducing all of these features in one material, we got a very active photocatalyst.”

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