Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

High-Speed Method to Aid Search for Solar Energy Storage Catalysts

30.05.2012
Eons ago, nature solved the problem of converting solar energy to fuels by inventing the process of photosynthesis.

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, trdevitt@wisc.edu

Terry Devitt | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.wisc.edu

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht A simple, yet versatile, new design for chaotic oscillating circuitry inspired by prime numbers
22.05.2019 | Tokyo Institute of Technology

nachricht Machine learning speeds modeling of experiments aimed at capturing fusion energy on Earth
20.05.2019 | DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New studies increase confidence in NASA's measure of Earth's temperature

A new assessment of NASA's record of global temperatures revealed that the agency's estimate of Earth's long-term temperature rise in recent decades is accurate to within less than a tenth of a degree Fahrenheit, providing confidence that past and future research is correctly capturing rising surface temperatures.

The most complete assessment ever of statistical uncertainty within the GISS Surface Temperature Analysis (GISTEMP) data product shows that the annual values...

Im Focus: The geometry of an electron determined for the first time

Physicists at the University of Basel are able to show for the first time how a single electron looks in an artificial atom. A newly developed method enables them to show the probability of an electron being present in a space. This allows improved control of electron spins, which could serve as the smallest information unit in a future quantum computer. The experiments were published in Physical Review Letters and the related theory in Physical Review B.

The spin of an electron is a promising candidate for use as the smallest information unit (qubit) of a quantum computer. Controlling and switching this spin or...

Im Focus: Self-repairing batteries

UTokyo engineers develop a way to create high-capacity long-life batteries

Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...

Im Focus: Quantum Cloud Computing with Self-Check

With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.

Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...

Im Focus: Accelerating quantum technologies with materials processing at the atomic scale

'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.

However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

New system by TU Graz automatically recognises pedestrians’ intent to cross the road

27.05.2019 | Information Technology

On Mars, sands shift to a different drum

24.05.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Piedmont Atlanta first in Georgia to offer new minimally invasive treatment for emphysema

24.05.2019 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>