Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Nanostructure boosts efficiency in energy transport

05.03.2009
Complimentary semiconductors enhance 'water-splitting' technique

Overcoming a critical conductivity challenge to clean energy technologies, Boston College researchers have developed a titanium nanostructure that provides an expanded surface area and demonstrates significantly greater efficiency in the transport of electrons.

The challenge has vexed researchers pursuing solar panels thick enough to absorb sunlight, yet thin enough to collect and transport electrons with minimal energy loss. Similarly, the relatively new science of water splitting requires capturing energy within semiconductor materials and then efficiently transporting charges ultimately used to generate hydrogen.

Boston College Asst. Prof of Chemistry Dunwei Wang and members of his lab found that incorporating two titanium-based semiconductors into a nano-scale structure improved the efficiency of power-collecting efforts by approximately 33 percent, the team reported in the online edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

The team achieved a peak conversion efficiency of 16.7 percent under ultraviolet light, reported Wang and his co-authors, BC graduate students Yongjing Lin and Sa Zhou, post doctoral researcher Xiaohua Liu and undergraduate Stafford Sheehan. That compared to an efficiency of 12 percent from a structure composed only of titanium dioxide (TiO2).

Wang said the efficiency gains within the novel material can serve so-called water-splitting, where semiconductor catalysts have been shown to separate and store hydrogen and oxygen gases.

"The current challenge in splitting water involves how best to capture photons within the semiconductor material and then grab and transport them to produce hydrogen," Wang says. "For practical water splitting, you want to generate oxygen and hydrogen separately. For this, good electrical conductivity is of great importance because it allows you to collect electrons in the oxygen-generation region and transport them to the hydrogen-generation chamber for hydrogen production."

By using two crystalline semiconductors – materials critical to the processes of energy capture and transport – Wang says the researchers discovered a new and successful transfer mechanism in an engineered structure nearly invisible to the human eye.

Titanium dioxide has played a key role in early water-splitting research because of its prowess as a catalyst. However, its light absorption is confined to ultraviolet rays only and the material is also a relatively poor conductor.

Wang and his researchers started by growing a nanostructure made of titanium disilicide (TiSi2), a semiconductor capable of absorbing solar light and a material able to provide a sturdy structure with expanded surface area critical to absorbing photons. Still in need of its catalytic capabilities, titanium dioxide was used to coat the structure, Wang said.

The resulting net-like nanostructure effectively separated charges, collecting the electrons in the titanium disilicide core and transporting them away. The structure transferred positive charges to the titanium dioxide region of the material for chemical reactions. In water-splitting, these charges could potentially be used to generate hydrogen.

Ed Hayward | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.bc.edu
http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ja808426h

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New application for acoustics helps estimate marine life populations
16.01.2018 | University of California - San Diego

nachricht Unexpected environmental source of methane discovered
16.01.2018 | University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

Im Focus: A thermometer for the oceans

Measurement of noble gases in Antarctic ice cores

The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Gran Chaco: Biodiversity at High Risk

17.01.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Only an atom thick: Physicists succeed in measuring mechanical properties of 2D monolayer materials

17.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Fraunhofer HHI receives AIS Technology Innovation Award 2018 for 3D Human Body Reconstruction

17.01.2018 | Awards Funding

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>