Hydrogen: green and renewable energy sourced from sunlight and water
Photocatalytic generation of hydrogen under extreme conditions.
Hydrogen is a portable, renewable and non-polluting fuel source that could replace oil and natural gas. The challenge holding back the wide scale use of hydrogen as a fuel source is the difficulty in its production from water splitting.
Electrolysis powered by renewable energy is one possible method but is currently not cost competitive with other hydrogen production methods and has seen only minor improvements in recent years. Photocatalytic water splitting has seen major improvements in recent years with 1000x improvement since 2015 unlocked by optimising photocatalyst and co-catalyst systems.1
Our research in this area use the most active photocatalysts available under extreme conditions where photocatalysis has particular advantages over other hydrogen production methods. Examples include photocatalysis from air which may be used to produce fuel in remote locations such as islands or deserts, photocatalysis in extraterrestrial-like conditions such as on asteroids or the moon, and photocatalysis under sunlight concentrated using reflectors or lenses.2
The impetus of this research direction is that the efficiency of photocatalytic hydrogen production has been shown to increase with temperature, light intensity and UV illumination. Analysis of the photocatalysts before and after use, particularly by electron microscopy (see Figure), will provide insights in improving photocatalysis activity and longevity.
This renewable energy project will develop skills in inorganic synthesis, light initiated reactions, gas chromatography, electron microscopy and chemical engineering.
Study honours in chemistry
Sunlight is the most abundant energy source on Earth yet it is still underutilised in chemical synthesis. Photocatalysis is the key to unlock the potential of light in a range of applications.
My research creates, optimises and tests new photocatalytic materials for environmentally relevant applications such as the destruction of pollutants or the generation of renewable fuels.