Solar To Hydrogen Breakthrough

  • Researchers at EPFL’s Laboratory of Renewable Energy Science and Engineering (LRESE) have created a smart device capable of producing large amounts of clean hydrogen from the sun.
  • By concentrating sunlight, their device uses a smaller amount of the rare, costly materials that are required to produce hydrogen, yet it still maintains a high solar-to-fuel efficiency.
  • Their research has been taken to the next scale with a pilot facility installed on the EPFL campus.

Scientists at EPFL’s Laboratory of Renewable Energy Science and Engineering (LRESE) came up with the idea of concentrating solar irradiation to produce a larger amount of hydrogen over a given area at a lower cost. Located in Lausanne on the shores of Lake Geneva, EPFL is one of Europe’s most famous science and technology institutions.

The young research team has developed an enhanced photo-electrochemical system that, when used in conjunction with concentrated solar irradiation and smart thermal management, can turn solar power into hydrogen with a 17% conversion rate and unprecedented power and current density. What’s more, their technology is stable and can handle the stochastic dynamics of daily solar irradiation.

“In our device, a thin layer of water runs over a solar cell to cool it. The system temperature remains relatively low, allowing the solar cell to deliver better performance,” says Saurabh Tembhurne, a co-author of the study.

“At the same time, the heat extracted by the water is transferred to catalysts, thereby improving the chemical reaction and increasing the hydrogen production rate,” adds Fredy Nandjou, a researcher at the LRESE. Hydrogen production is therefore optimized at each step of the conversion process.

Link to report

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

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