Plants convert sunlight to chemical energy in the form of biomass, while releasing oxygen as an environmentally benign byproduct. Devising a similar process by which solar energy could be captured and stored for use in vehicles or at night is a major focus of modern solar energy research.
“It is widely recognized that solar energy is the most abundant source of energy on the planet,” explains University of Wisconsin-Madison chemistry professor Shannon Stahl. “Although solar panels can convert sunlight to electricity, the sun isn't always shining.”
Thus, finding an efficient way to store solar energy is a major goal for science and society. Efforts today are focused on electrolysis reactions that use sunlight to convert water, carbon dioxide, or other abundant feedstocks into chemicals that can be stored for use any time.
A key stumbling block, however, is finding inexpensive and readily available electrocatalysts that facilitate these solar-driven reactions. Now, that quest for catalysts may become much easier thanks to research led by Stahl and UW-Madison staff scientist James Gerken and their colleagues.
Writing this week in the journal Angewandte Chemie, the Wisconsin group describes a new high-throughput method to identify electrocatalysts for water oxidation.
Efficient, earth-abundant electrocatalysts that facilitate the oxidation of water are critical to the production of solar fuels, says Gerken. "If we do this well enough, we can keep the party going all night long."
Existing technology to store solar energy is not economicallyviable because using the sun to split water into oxygen and hydrogen is inefficient. Water oxidation provides electrons and protons needed for hydrogen production, and better catalysts minimize the energy lost when converting energy from sunlight to chemical fuels, says Stahl.
In addition to being efficient, the catalysts need to be made from materials that are more abundant and far less expensive than metals like platinum and the rare earth compounds currently found in the most effective catalysts.
According to Stahl and Gerken, the discovery of promising electrocatalytic materials is hindered by the costly and laborious approaches used to discover them. What’s more, the sheer number of possible catalyst compositions far exceeds the number that can be tested using traditional methods.
In the Angewandte Chemie report, Gerken, Stahl and their colleagues describe a screening method capable of rapidly evaluating potential new electrocatalysts. In simple terms, the technique works using ultraviolet light and a fluorescent paint to test prospective metal-oxide electrocatalysts. A camera captures images from a grid of candidate catalysts during the electrolysis process, as the paint responds to the formation of oxygen. This approach turns out to be a highly efficient way to sort through many compounds in parallel to identify promising leads.
Already, the Wisconsin team has identified several new metal-oxide catalysts that are composed of inexpensive materials such as iron, nickel and aluminum, and that hold promise for use in solar energy storage.
In addition to Gerken and Stahl, authors of the new study include Jamie Y.C. Chen, Robert C. Massé, and Adam B. Powell, all of UW-Madison's department of chemistry. The work was supported by a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation and a provisional patent has been submitted through the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.
Terry Devitt (608) 262-8282, email@example.com
Terry Devitt | Newswise Science News
IHP technology ready for space flights
20.08.2018 | IHP - Leibniz-Institut für innovative Mikroelektronik
It’s All in the Mix: Jülich Researchers are Developing Fast-Charging Solid-State Batteries
20.08.2018 | Forschungszentrum Jülich
There are currently great hopes for solid-state batteries. They contain no liquid parts that could leak or catch fire. For this reason, they do not require cooling and are considered to be much safer, more reliable, and longer lasting than traditional lithium-ion batteries. Jülich scientists have now introduced a new concept that allows currents up to ten times greater during charging and discharging than previously described in the literature. The improvement was achieved by a “clever” choice of materials with a focus on consistently good compatibility. All components were made from phosphate compounds, which are well matched both chemically and mechanically.
The low current is considered one of the biggest hurdles in the development of solid-state batteries. It is the reason why the batteries take a relatively long...
New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference
Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...
Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.
When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...
Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.
Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....
17.08.2018 | Event News
08.08.2018 | Event News
27.07.2018 | Event News
20.08.2018 | Information Technology
20.08.2018 | Life Sciences
20.08.2018 | Information Technology