The technology to mass produce hydrogen out of water using sunlight has been developed, which means that a breakthrough to secure hydrogen, a next-gen source of energy, has been discovered. If this technology is commercialized, the era of fueling automobiles with water could begin.
According to the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning on Sept. 15, a research team consisting of Professor Lee Jong-hyup at Seoul National University succeeded in developing the technology to mass produce hydrogen, a next-gen source of energy, out of water using sunlight.
Research so far has concentrated on producing hydrogen using ultraviolet rays, which are only 4 percent of sunlight, but carry a lot of energy. However, such studies reached a fundamental limit in producing hydrogen due to the extremely small amount of ultraviolet rays available from the sun. The conclusion reached was that it would be necessary to use the entire spectrum of visible light emitted by the sun to produce hydrogen from water in any meaningful quantity.
Therefore the performance of Professor Lee’s research team is drawing a lot of attention, as this team used visible light to produce 74 times more hydrogen out of water than the conventional method.
According to the research team, gold nanoparticles are capable of producing hydrogen from water by absorbing visible rays at a low energy level and creating thermoelectrons. However, the production efficiency and practicality of this process is extremely low, as most thermoelectrons break down very quickly, only lasting 1/10 quadrillionth of a second.
However, the research team was able to radically enhance the lifespan of electrons created from gold nanoparticle catalysts by developing ternary system nanostructures in which two more nanoparticles are attached to the gold particle. Through this method, 74 times more hydrogen was produced than when gold nanoparticles were used as a catalyst alone.
This newly-developed nanostructure will also be highly practical in the solar energy conversion field, since electric energy can be produced by the structure as well in an environmentally-friendly way.
Professor Lee projected, “The results of this research will greatly contribute to the improvement of clean energy-based industries by changing the traditional energy production system. When this technology is commercialized and the energy storing technology is more advanced together afterwards, home appliances and even automobiles can be operated with only water, without any infusion of electricity or fuel from outside.”