New Materials Greatly Improve Solar Fuel Cell Peformance

celc201600014-toc-0001Chemists from University of Texas at Arlington(UTA) have devised new materials of high performance for solar cells to split Carbon dioxide and water into fuels like methanol and hydrogen gas.

“Technologies that simultaneously permit us to remove greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide while harnessing and storing the energy of sunlight as fuel are at the forefront of current research,” said Dr Krishnan Rajeshwar, distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry and co-founder of the university’s centre of renewable energy, science and technology, Times of India quoted.

“Our new material could improve the safety, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of solar fuel generation which is not yet economically viable,” added Rajeshwar, who is also a charter member of the UTA Academy of Distinguished Scholars and the senior vice president of The Electrochemical Society.
Ultra-long carbon nanotube networks that were coated homogeneously with copper oxide nano-crystals were used to work the new hybrid platform.

The research shows the high electrical conductivity of carbon nanotubes and how copper oxide acts as a photocathode and efficiently converts light into the photocurrents that are necessary for the photoelectrochemical reduction reaction.

Morteza Khaledi, dean of the UTA college of science, said, “Dr Rajeshwar’s ongoing, global leadership in research focused on solar fuel generation forms part of UTA’s increasing focus on renewable and sustainable energy”.

The research shows the commitment of the university to address critical issues with global environmental impact under the strategic plan 2020.

“Creating inexpensive ways to generate fuel from an unwanted gas like carbon dioxide would be an enormous step forward for us all,” Khaledi added.

Compared to pure copper oxide, which corrodes over a span of time, forming metallic copper, the new material exhibits much greater stability during long term photoelectrolysis.

The team of scientists is in the process of designing a ‘microfluidic electrochemical reactor’ to recover Oxygen the CarbondiOxide extracted from the cabin air. According to the research findings that were published in the CheElectroChem journal, europe, and a similar article from the Journal of Materials Chemistry, the prototype will be built at the centre for renewable energy science and technology at UTA in the coming months.

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