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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.


  1. Photocatalytic water splitting with a quantum efficiency of almost unity
  2. Gas phase photocatalytic water splitting of moisture in ambient air: Toward reagent-free hydrogen production
Cameron Shearer researcher photo


Dr Cameron Shearer

Co-supervisor: Professor Greg Metha

Research area: Advanced photocatalytic materials for environmental and renewable energy applications
Department of Chemistry, School of Physical Sciences

Recommended honours enrolmentHonours in Chemistry

Tagged in Honours projects - Chemistry, Honours projects - Ecology and environmental science, Honours projects - Cameron Shearer, Honours projects - Greg Metha

Competition: Young Scientist of the Year

How do we feed the world’s growing population? How do we save our wildlife from extinction? Got an idea that will build a brighter, greener world?

Australian high school students are invited to submit a short video about one of Australia’s big science challenges.

Video competition