Hydrogen is an alternative source of energy that can be produced from renewable sources of sunlight and water. A group of Japanese researchers has developed a photocatalyst that increases hydrogen production tenfold.
The discovery was made by a joint research team led by Associate Professor TACHIKAWA Takashi (Molecular Photoscience Research Center, Kobe University) and Professor MAJIMA Tetsuro (Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research, Osaka University). Their findings were published on April 6 in the online version of Angewandte Chemie International Edition.
(a)This is a light emission from SrTiO3 mesocrystals obtained in a 24-hour hydrothermal reaction. A weak light is seen equally throughout apart from the crystal edges. (b)This is a light emission from SrTiO3 mesocrystals obtained in a 48-hour hydrothermal reaction. They shine strongly due to the electrons gathered around the large crystals on the surface. The light emitted has a wavelength of 405nm.
Credit: Kobe University
When light is applied to photocatalysts, electrons and holes are produced on the surface of the catalyst, and hydrogen is obtained when these electrons reduce the hydrogen ions in water. However, in traditional photocatalysts the holes that are produced at the same time as the electrons mostly recombine on the surface of the catalyst and disappear, making it difficult to increase conversion efficiency.
Professor Tachikawa's research group developed a photocatalyst made of mesocrystal, deliberately creating a lack of uniformity in size and arrangement of the crystals. This new photocatalyst is able to spatially separate the electrons and electron holes to prevent them recombining. As a result, it has a far more efficient conversion rate for producing hydrogen than conventional nanoparticulate photocatalysts (approximately 7%).
The team developed a new method called "Topotactic Epitaxial Growth" that uses the nanometer-sized spaces in mesocrystals. Based on this synthesis method they were able to synthesize strontium titanate (SrTiO3) from a compound with a different structure, titanium oxide (TiO2), using a simple one-step hydrothermal reaction. By lengthening the reaction time, they could also grow larger particles near the surface while preserving their crystalline structure.
When they attached a co-catalyst to the synthesized mesocrystal and applied ultraviolet light in water, the reaction occurred with approximately 7% light energy conversion efficiency. Under the same conditions, SrTiO3 nanoparticles which had not been converted into mesocrystals reached a conversion efficiency of less than 1%, proving that the reaction efficiency increased tenfold under the mesocrystal structure. When each particle was examined under a fluorescent microscope, the team found that the electrons produced during the reaction gathered around the larger nanocrystals.
When exposed to ultraviolet light, the electrons in this newly-developed photocatalyst move smoothly between the nanoparticles inside the mesocrystal, gather around the larger nanocrystals generated on the surface of the crystal, and efficiently reduce the hydrogen ions to create hydrogen.
The discovery of this powerful photocatalyst started with the researchers' idea to "deliberately break down the ordered structure of mesocrystals", a concept that could be applied to other materials. The strontium titanate used this time is a cubic crystal, which means there is no variation in molecular adsorption or the reaction strength for each crystal plane. By regulating the size and spatial arrangement of the nanocrystals, which form the building blocks for this structure, it may be possible to greatly increase the light energy conversion efficiency of the existing system.
Using these findings, the research group plans to apply mesocrystal technology to realizing the super-efficient production of hydrogen from solar energy. The perovskite metal oxides, including strontium titanate, the target of this study, are the fundamental materials of electronic elements, so their results could be applied to a wide range of fields.
Eleanor Wyllie | EurekAlert!
New biomaterial could replace plastic laminates, greatly reduce pollution
21.09.2017 | Penn State
Stopping problem ice -- by cracking it
21.09.2017 | Norwegian University of Science and Technology
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy