Cheap Green Hydrogen Without External Energy Input Using Solar Device Developed by University of Michigan - India Renewable Energy Consulting – Solar, Biomass, Wind, Cleantech
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Cheap Green Hydrogen Without External Energy Input Using Solar Device Developed by University of Michigan

Here’s an article posted in New Atlas.

According to the article,

  • A team of researchers from the University of Michigan has developed a photocatalytic device that can pull hydrogen out of seawater without needing any external energy input other than sunlight.
  • The device harnesses a broad spectrum of sunlight, including the infrared spectrum, to split water at a solid 9% efficiency – nearly a tenfold improvement from other devices of its kind.

Let’s break down the process and key features of this innovative device:

  1. Semiconductor Material: The heart of the device is a semiconductor material made from indium gallium nitride nanostructures grown onto a silicon surface. This material is crucial for absorbing sunlight and initiating the water-splitting process.
  2. Concentrated Sunlight: Unlike many other artificial photosynthesis devices, the UMich semiconductor can utilize concentrated sunlight effectively. This is a significant advantage, as high-intensity light can typically cause degradation in other systems. Concentrated sunlight is achieved by focusing sunlight onto the semiconductor material, providing ample energy for the water-splitting reaction.
  3. Heat Utilization: The UMich device employs a unique approach by leveraging heat generated from infrared light to accelerate the water-splitting reaction. The semiconductor absorbs higher-frequency wavelengths of light for the photochemical reaction, while lower-frequency infrared light heats the chamber to around 70°C (158°F). This elevated temperature not only enhances the reaction rate but also prevents the recombination of hydrogen and oxygen molecules, ensuring efficient separation and collection.
  4. Efficiency: The efficiency of the device is a crucial metric for assessing its performance. In idealized lab conditions using purified water, the device achieved an impressive efficiency of 9%. Even when tested with tap water, it maintained a commendable efficiency of around 7%. In outdoor tests simulating real-world conditions with natural sunlight variability, the device returned an efficiency of 6.2%. While these figures may be slightly lower than some other photoelectrochemical devices, they are still significant, especially considering the device’s smaller size and lower cost.
  5. Seawater Splitting: One of the most promising aspects of the UMich device is its ability to split seawater efficiently. This is a critical feature considering the growing scarcity of freshwater resources worldwide. The device demonstrated consistent efficiency even when splitting seawater, highlighting its potential to address water scarcity while producing hydrogen as a clean energy source.

Overall, the UMich artificial photosynthesis device represents a promising advancement in renewable energy technology. Its ability to efficiently utilize concentrated sunlight, leverage heat for enhanced reaction rates, and effectively split seawater make it a compelling solution for sustainable hydrogen production and combating climate change. With further refinement and scale-up, this technology could play a crucial role in the transition to a carbon-neutral future.

Interestingly, we have some other posts related to this content:

  1. Green Hydrogen Production Boosts by Solar Device: Hits 20% Efficiency
    • A new solar-radiation-concentrating device has surpassed 20% efficiency in hydrogen production, generating green hydrogen at over 2 kilowatts and usable heat at 70°C, potentially applicable in hospitals, electric vehicles, and residential heating.
  2. Hydrogen-Producing Rooftop Solar Panels: The Future of Clean Energy
    • Researchers at KU Leuven have developed hydrogen-producing rooftop solar panels nearing commercialization. These panels are compatible with common PV structures and utilize non-precious materials to keep costs low, indicating readiness for industrial production.
  3. AI Solar Tech For Green Hydrogen – Lancaster and Heliogen
    • Lancaster has partnered with Heliogen to employ AI solar technology for green hydrogen production, aiming to power the city’s fleet with AI-enabled solar energy technology.

About Narasimhan Santhanam (Narsi)

Narsi, a Director at EAI, Co-founded one of India's first climate tech consulting firm in 2008.

Since then, he has assisted over 250 Indian and International firms, across many climate tech domain Solar, Bio-energy, Green hydrogen, E-Mobility, Green Chemicals.

Narsi works closely with senior and top management corporates and helps then devise strategy and go-to-market plans to benefit from the fast growing Indian Climate tech market.

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