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Published on : Oct 05, 2017

Not all exciting developments that occur in the realm of producing environmentally-friendly fuels pertain to producing electric energy using solar panels. Rather a few of them in renewable energy devices relate to producing hydrogen fuels by using solar energy to extract the gas from water. Until now such methods exist, especially using water bodies, but their commercialization has been largely hindered by the lack of efficiency in the production process as well as the high cost. A team of researchers at the University of Central Florida (UCF) led by Yang Yang, Assistant Professor, Nanoscience Technology Center., has come up with a new photocatalytic method of generation of hydrogen from sea water using an inexpensively fabricated hybrid nanomaterial.

The study is detailed in a paper published on September 28 in the journal Energy & Environmental Science.

Heterostructures of MoS2/TiO2 can Harvest Energy from Extended Bandwidth of Solar Light

Yang and his team developed a photocatalyst composed of heterostructures of titanium dioxide (TiO2) and molybdenum disulfide (MoS2); ultrathin film of the former and hydrid nanoflakes of the latter were used for fabrication. The advanced photocatalyst offered them several advantages not possible earlier. The researcher found that the nanomaterial can be used to harvest energy from across a wide bandwidth of solar light, with wavelengths ranging from ultraviolet-visible to near-infrared. Further the performance of catalyst wasn’t affected by the harsh environment of the sea water, attributed mainly to the presence of biomass and corrosive salts in the water. Extracting the gas from purified water was comparatively easier, the researchers contended.

The commercialization of this technology for producing hydrogen for fuel cells, researchers opined, could bode well for the economy of nations dotted by large water bodies, notably sea. The ease of storage and transportation of hydrogen is an added advantage, making it increasingly preferable to harvesting power using solar energy.

The fabrication method used by the researchers are remarkably uncomplicated and cost-effective. Yang and his team are continuing their effort in finding ways to scale up the process.