News release: Rice U. Develops High-Efficiency Device That Turns Sunlight Into Hydrogen

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Article written by: Silvia Cernea Clark

Rice University engineers can turn sunlight into hydrogen with record-breaking efficiency thanks to a device that combines next-generation halide perovskite semiconductors with electrocatalysts in a single, durable, cost-effective and scalable device.

The new technology is a significant step forward for clean energy and could serve as a platform for a wide range of chemical reactions that use solar-harvested electricity to convert feedstocks into fuels.

The lab of chemical and biomolecular engineer Aditya Mohite built the integrated photoreactor using an anticorrosion barrier that insulates the semiconductor from water without impeding the transfer of electrons. According to a study published in Nature Communications, the device achieved a 20.8% solar-to-hydrogen conversion efficiency.

“Using sunlight as an energy source to manufacture chemicals is one of the largest hurdles to a clean energy economy,” said Austin Fehr, a chemical and biomolecular engineering doctoral student and one of the study’s lead authors. “Our goal is to build economically feasible platforms that can generate solar-derived fuels. Here, we designed a system that absorbs light and completes electrochemical water-splitting chemistry on its surface.”

The device is known as a photoelectrochemical cell because…

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