In the mind of some futurists, the home energy system of tomorrow looks like this: solar photovoltaic cells on your roof provide you with a source of clean, secure electricity during the daytime. Meanwhile, a separate system uses some of that electricity to split water into its oxygen and hydrogen molecules. The resultant hydrogen can then be used to power your home at night, solving solar’s intermittency challenges, or it could even be used to power your hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. No grid connection needed, no reliance on volatile oil markets, and no combustion of fossil fuels contributing to pollution and global climate change.
Sounds great, right? One big wrinkle to date has been to build an efficient solar photocatalysis system with Earth abundant and non toxic materials, at a reasonable cost. Better efficiency in water photocatalysis could get us closer to that idealized energy future much sooner.
That is why it is particularly exciting to see that researchers at the University of Wisconsin and the UChicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering (IME) have recently made progress on this exact issue, by proposing a better photoanode for water photocatalysis.