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New cost-effective way to produce hydrogen from water

New cost-effective way to produce hydrogen from water

A new cost-effective way to produce hydrogen from water. Hydrogen is very rarely found on its own. Instead, it is usually always found as a component of another chemical such as water (H2O) or methane (CH4).

Highlights:

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  • Overview of hydrogen
  • Hydrogen production
  • New cost-effective way to produce hydrogen from water
  • Study showing a new cost-effective way to produce hydrogen from water

It must first be separated into its pure form, hydrogen (H2). That is, in order for hydrogen to be used in fuel cell electric cars. Electricity and water are produced when hydrogen fuel is mixed with oxygen extracted from the surrounding air in a fuel cell. That is, through a process known as electrochemistry.

Hydrogen may be produced from a wide variety of home resources. This includes biomass, fossil fuels and the electrolysis of water using electricity.

How hydrogen is produced may have a significant influence on both its environmental footprint and its energy efficiency. There are now many initiatives under way to reduce the costs involved with the manufacturing of hydrogen.

One must first isolate hydrogen from the other elements that are present in the molecules in which it is found. This is in order to produce it. As a useful fuel, hydrogen may be produced from a wide variety of different sources. There are also many different techniques to produce it.

Electrolysis, which involves the splitting of water with electricity, is one of the most prevalent processes for producing hydrogen. This is also in conjunction with steam-methane reforming. Researchers are looking at other approaches or channels for the synthesis of hydrogen.

New cost-effective way to produce hydrogen from water

According to a new study called “Long-term solar water and CO2 splitting with photo-electrochemical BiOI–BiVO4 tandems,” which was published in Nature Materials, it is possible for devices to make clean hydrogen from water over the course of a few weeks by using readily available oxides and carbon-based materials.

The findings, which were co-led by Dr. Virgil Andrei, a Research Fellow at St. John’s College, University of Cambridge and academics at Imperial College London could help overcome one of the primary challenges in the production of solar fuel.

This is a problem because the light-absorbing materials that are already on Earth are limited. This is in terms of how well they work or how stable they are.

Fuel made from hydrogen will be an important part of getting rid of all carbon emissions. This will meet the UK’s goal of having net-zero emissions by 2050.

Researchers are now attempting to identify ways to create hydrogen in a more environmentally friendly manner. This is because the majority of hydrogen is currently supplied by fossil fuels. Making machines that can collect light from the sun and divide water into its component parts in order to create green hydrogen is one technique to accomplish this goal.

The vast majority of light-absorbing materials break down quickly when they come into contact with water. This is even though a lot of them have been tested in the name of making clean hydrogen.

Materials for light collection that have not yet been fully studied.

For instance, perovskites are the materials with the highest growth rate in terms of the efficiency with which they capture light. Nevertheless, they are unstable in water and contain lead. Because of this, there is a chance that it will leak.  So scientists have been trying to come up with alternatives that don’t use lead.

Bismuth oxyiodide, also known as BiOI, is a non-toxic alternative to semiconductors. This material has been overlooked for applications that use solar fuel. This is because it doesn’t stay stable in water.

Even so, based on what they already knew about BiOI’s potential, researchers decided to look into how this material could be used to make hydrogen in a way that is good for the environment.

Dr. Robert Hoye, Lecturer in the Department of Materials at Imperial College London remarked that Bismuth oxyiodide is a remarkable photoactive material that possesses energy levels at the correct places for water splitting.

We were able to prove a few years ago that solar cells made using state-of-the-art perovskite light absorbers are not as stable as those made with BiOI light absorbers. We wanted to see if we could use that same consistency to make hydrogen that is good for the environment.

The following is a quote from Professor Judith Driscoll of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy. “We have spent a considerable amount of time working on this material. This is because of its potentially vast array of applications. Also, the ease with which it can be fabricated, its low toxicity, and its high degree of stability.”

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“It was very beneficial to pool the knowledge and experience of the many research groups located across Cambridge as well as Imperial.

Solar fuel generation has made a significant step forward.

The group of researchers developed apparatuses that, rather than producing sugars, resulted in the production of fuels. This, such as hydrogen by imitating the natural process of photosynthesis that takes place in the leaves of plants.

These fake leaves were made of BiOI and other materials that are good for the environment. When the sun hit them, they made oxygen, hydrogen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.

The researchers were able to find a technique to make these artificial leaf devices more stable. That is, by injecting BiOI into the space between two layers of oxide.

Water-repellent graphite paste

A layer of water-repellent graphite paste was put on top of the strong oxide-based device. This is to keep moisture from getting inside. Because of this, the stability of the light-absorbing pixels made of bismuth oxyiodide was increased from minutes to a couple of months. This includes the amount of time that the devices were kept in storage.

This is an important discovery because it means that BiOI can be used as a light harvester to make clean hydrogen in a stable environment.

According to Dr. Robert Jagt, who works in the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy at the University of Cambridge and is one of the co-lead authors of the study. “These oxide layers boost the capacity to produce hydrogen compared to stand-alone BiOI.”

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In addition, the researchers discovered that artificial leaf devices consisting of several light-collecting sections (also known as “pixels”) displayed a greater performance than traditional devices with a single bigger pixel that was the same size overall.

This discovery could make it much easier and faster to make large quantities of revolutionary light harvesters that can be used to make fuel in a sustainable way.

Even if certain pixels are incorrect, we were able to separate them, so they don’t influence the remainder,” adds Dr. Virgil Andrei, a co-lead author from the Department of Chemistry in Cambridge.

This indicated that we were able to maintain the performance of the smaller pixels over a greater region. Because of this boost in performance, the apparatus was able to not only create hydrogen but also decrease CO2 to synthesis gas, which is an essential intermediary in the industrial synthesis of chemicals and medicines.

Keeping an eye on the years to come

According to the findings, there is a chance that these new devices will be able to compete well with the performance of existing light absorbers. The new methods for making BiOI artificial leaf devices more stable can now be used to make other innovative systems more stable. This will help bring them closer to being commercialized.

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This is a really interesting turn of events! At present, there are just a handful of solar fuel systems that can demonstrate stability that is suitable for usage in the real world.

According to Professor Erwin Reisner of the Department of Chemistry at Cambridge University, who is one of the corresponding authors, “With this study, we take a step ahead towards developing a circular fuel economy.”

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