In the quest to realize artificial photosynthesis to convert sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into fuel—just as plants do—researchers need to not only identify materials to efficiently perform photoelectrochemical water splitting, but also to understand why a certain material may or may not work. Now scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National... Read more →


Scientists in Japan have shown that an oxyfluoride is capable of visible light-driven photocatalysis—i.e., converting solar energy to fuel energy using visible-light-absorbing semiconductor materials. The finding opens new doors for designing materials for artificial photosynthesis and solar energy research. Pb2Ti2O5.4F1.2. The inset (on the right) shows a photograph of Pb2Ti2O5.4F1.2,... Read more →


SoCalGas introduces STARS solar hydrogen generation system at California Air Resources Board Symposium

Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) introduced an innovative new solar-powered hydrogen generation system during the California Air Resources Board Technology Expo and Symposium at the University of California, Riverside. The project is a partnership between SoCalGas, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and the STARS Corporation. The generation system uses sunlight... Read more →


Exeter team develops low-cost photoelectrode for spontaneous water-splitting using sunlight

Researchers at the University of Exeter (UK) have developed a novel p-type LaFeO3 photoelectrode using an inexpensive and scalable spray pyrolysis method. The nanostructured photoelectrode results in spontaneous hydrogen evolution from water without any external bias applied with a faradaic efficiency of 30% and excellent stability. The researchers believe this... Read more →


Researchers in Canada have demonstrated a new photochemical diode artificial photosynthesis system that can enable efficient, unassisted overall pure water splitting without using any sacrificial reagent. As reported in an open-access paper in Nature Communications, the wafer-level photochemical diode arrays exhibited solar-to-hydrogen efficiency of ~3.3% in neutral (pH ~ 7.0) overall water... Read more →


New photocatalyst for the hydrogenation of CO2 to methanol with high selectivity at atmospheric pressure

Researchers from Soochow University in China and the University of Toronto have developed a new photocatalyst for the hydrogenation of CO2 to methanol with 50% selectivity under simulated solar irradiation. A paper on their work appears in the journal Joule. The solar methanol production of the defect-laden indium oxide, In2O3-x(OH)y,... Read more →


Startup Mattershift says it has achieved a breakthrough in making carbon nanotube (CNT) membranes at large scale. The startup is developing the technology’s ability to combine and separate individual molecules to make gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel using CO2 removed from the air. In an open-access paper in Science Advances,... Read more →


Researchers at the University of Twente’s MESA+ research institute have made significant efficiency improvements to the technology used to generate solar fuels. They fabricated a highly efficient photocathode by spatially and functionally decoupling light absorption and catalytic activity. As reported in a paper in the journal Nature Energy, their silicon... Read more →


The German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), together with international project partners, has inaugurated the largest solar-chemical installation yet for the production of hydrogen. For the HYDROSOL-Plant (thermochemical HYDROgen product in a SOLar monolithic reactor) project, scientists and companies further developed the process of direct hydrogen... Read more →


Integrated solar-driven system for electrochemical energy storage and water electrolysis for H2 production

A team from UCLA and colleagues from Tarbiat Modares University and Shahed University in Iran have devised an integrated solar-powered system for both electrochemical energy storage and water electrolysis. They synthesized a nickel-cobalt-iron layered double hydroxide (Ni-Co-Fe LDH) on a nickel foam substrate using a fast, one-step electrodeposition approach. The... Read more →


A team led by researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory has developed a new way to produce solar fuels by using completely synthetic bionano machinery to harvest light without the need for a living cell. The researchers’ device, reported in the journal ACS Nano as a... Read more →


New hybrid photocatalyst for highly efficient hydrogen production from water

Researchers at the University of Central Florida, with colleagues at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Tsinghua University, developed a new hybrid nanomaterial—a nonmetal plasmonic MoS2@TiO2 heterostructure—for highly efficient photocatalytic H2 generation from water. As reported in an open access paper in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, the... Read more →


Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have harnessed the power of photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide into fuels and alcohols at efficiencies far greater than plants. The achievement marks a significant milestone in the effort to move toward sustainable sources of fuel. Many systems... Read more →


Researchers led by a team from KAUST have found a more sustainable route to hydrogen fuel production using chaotic, light-trapping materials that mimic natural photosynthetic water splitting. In a paper in the journal Advanced Materials, the researchers report a new photocatalyst for hydrogen evolution based on metal epsilon-near-zero (ENZ) metamaterials.... Read more →


According to a new study by Bosch, the use of e-fuels—synthetic fuels based on renewable energy—in Europe by 2050 as a scheduled supplement to electrification could save up to 2.8 gigatons of CO2: three times Germany’s carbon-dioxide emissions in 2016. The calculation is based on an assumed e-fuels blend of... Read more →


The SOLETAIR project (earlier post) has produced its first 200 liters of synthetic fuel from solar energy and the air’s carbon dioxide via Fischer-Tropsch synthesis. Project partners include INERATEC, a spinoff of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), VTT Technical Research Center of Finland and Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT). The... Read more →


An international research team led by scientists at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore have developed a light-activated material that can chemically convert carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide without generating unwanted byproducts. When exposed to visible light, the material,... Read more →


Japan team reports pathway to green ammonia: photocatalytic conversion of nitrogen with water

Researchers in Japan report that a commercially available TiO2 with a large number of surface oxygen vacancies, when photo-irradiated by UV light in pure water with nitrogen—successfully produces ammonia (NH3). The solar-to-chemical energy conversion efficiency is 0.02%, which is the highest efficiency among the early reported photocatalytic systems. This is,... Read more →


A new robust and highly active bifunctional catalyst developed by Rice University and the University of Houston splits water into hydrogen and oxygen without the need for expensive metals such as platinum. The work, the team suggests, provides a facile strategy for fabricating highly efficient electrocatalysts from earth-abundant materials for... Read more →


An evaluation of the implementation possibilities of power-to-fuel (PTF) technologies by a team from Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH in Germany recommends the PTF products DME, OME3-5 and n-alkanes as suitable diesel alternatives for the transportation sector. PTF processes essentially use renewable energy, CO2 and water to produce fuel, as in Audi’s... Read more →


Osaka team develops new solar-to-hydrogen catalyst that uses broader spectrum of light

A team at Osaka University in Japan has developed a new material based on gold and black phosphorus to harvest a broader spectrum of sunlight for water-splitting to produce hydrogen. The three-part composite maximizes both absorbing light and its efficiency for water splitting. The core is a traditional semiconductor—lanthanum titanium... Read more →


VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) are beginning testing of the Soletair demo plant, which uses air-captured carbon dioxide to produce renewable fuels and chemicals. The pilot plant is coupled to LUT’s solar power plant in Lappeenranta. The aim of the project is to... Read more →


EPFL team develops low-cost catalyst for splitting CO2

EPFL scientists have developed an Earth-abundant and low-cost catalytic system for splitting CO2 into CO and oxygen—an important step towards achieving the conversion of renewable energy into hydrocarbon fuels. A solar-driven system set up using this catalyst was able to split CO2 with an efficiency of 13.4%. A paper on... Read more →


Scientists have been trying to artificially replicate photosynthesis to convert solar energy to stored chemical energy, with the objective of producing environmentally friendly and sustainable fuels, such as hydrogen and methanol. However, mimicking key functions of the photosynthetic center, where specialized biomolecules carry out photosynthesis, has proven challenging. Artificial photosynthesis... Read more →


Scientists at the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have developed a proof-of-principle photoelectrochemical cell (PEC) capable of capturing excess photon energy normally lost to generating heat. Using quantum dots (QD) and a process called Multiple Exciton Generation (MEG), the NREL researchers were able to push the... Read more →


Scientists at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recaptured the record for highest efficiency in solar hydrogen production via a photoelectrochemical (PEC) water-splitting process. The new solar-to-hydrogen (STH) efficiency record is 16.2%, topping a reported 14% efficiency in 2015 by an international team made up... Read more →


Ford favoring bulk-type solid-state battery for next-gen energy storage

Ford is exploring a variety of “beyond Li-ion” solutions, including Lithium-sulfur, Lithium-air and solid-state lithium-ion batteries. Of those, Ford is currently favoring a solid-state solution for several reasons, among them the better volumetric energy density this approach offers, said Ford engineer Venkat Anandan in a presentation at SAE WCX 17... Read more →


In separate presentations at the 2017 SAE High Efficiency IC Engine Symposium in Detroit, R&D executives from GM and Ford each stressed the importance of improved, advanced fuels—among other technology developments—for their future engine efficiency gains and for long-term CO2 emissions goals. David Brooks, Director for General Motors Global Propulsion... Read more →


Researchers at Rice University and the University of Houston created an efficient, simple-to-manufacture core/shell photoanode with a highly active oxygen evolution electrocatalyst shell (FeMnP) and semiconductor core (rutile TiO2) for the photoelectrochemical oxygen evolution reaction (PEC-OER) for solar water splitting. The lab of Kenton Whitmire, a Rice professor of chemistry,... Read more →


A team of scientists at the University of Cambridge has reported the light-driven photoreforming of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin to H2 using semiconducting cadmium sulfide quantum dots in alkaline aqueous solution. The system operates under visible light, is stable beyond six days and is even able to reform unprocessed lignocellulose,... Read more →


Researchers at Indiana University Bloomington have synthesized a nanographene–Re (Rhenium) complex that functions as an efficient electrocatalyst and photocatalyst for the selective reduction of CO2 to CO for subsequent conversion to fuels. The complex can selectively electrocatalyze CO2 reduction to CO in tetrahydrofuran at −0.48 V vs NHE—the least negative... Read more →


Using high-throughput ab initio theory in conjunction with experiments in an integrated workflow, researchers at Caltech and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have identified eight low-band-gap ternary vanadate oxide photoanodes which have potential for generating chemical fuels from sunlight, water and CO2. A report on their methodology and the... Read more →


Texas A&M team developing photocatalyst to turn CO2 into renewable hydrocarbon fuels

Researchers with the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University, led by Dr. Ying Li, associate professor of mechanical engineering, are developing a photocatalyst to convert CO2 into renewable hydrocarbon fuels. The photocatalyst material acts as a semiconductor, absorbing the sunlight which excites the electrons in the semiconductor and... Read more →


Duke University researchers have engineered rhodium nanoparticles that can harness the energy in ultraviolet light and use it to catalyze the conversion of carbon dioxide to methane, a key building block for many types of fuels. An open-access paper on the work is published in Nature Communications. Industrial-scale catalysis for... Read more →


NSF to award $13M to projects focused on electrochemical and organic photovoltaic systems

The US National Science Foundation (NSF) will award more than $13 million to projects in the Energy for Sustainability program. The goal of the Energy for Sustainability program is to support fundamental engineering research that will enable innovative processes for the sustainable production of electricity and fuels, and for energy... Read more →


NREL shows graded catalytic-protective layer boosts longevity of high-efficiency photocathodes for renewable hydrogen

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have developed a method which boosts the longevity of high-efficiency photocathodes in photoelectrochemical water-splitting devices. Their works demonstrates the potential of utilizing a hybridized, heterogeneous surface layer as a cost-effective catalytic and protective interface for solar hydrogen production.... Read more →


On the road to solar fuels and chemicals

In a new paper in the journal Nature Materials (in an edition focused on materials for sustainable energy), a team from Stanford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has reviewed milestones in the progress of solid-state photoelectrocatalytic technologies toward delivering solar fuels and chemistry. Noting the “important advances” in solar... Read more →


Hydrogen from sunlight, but as a dark reaction; time-delayed photocatalytic H2 production

A team at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research, Germany, and collaborators at ETH Zurich and the University of Cambridge, have developed a system that enables time-delayed photocatalytic hydrogen generation—essentially, an artificial photosynthesis system that can operate in the dark. A paper on their work is published in... Read more →


Compact pilot plant for solar to liquid fuels production

Partners from Germany and Finland in the SOLETAIR project are building a compact pilot plant for the production of gasoline, diesel and kerosene from solar energy, regenerative hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The plant will be compact enough to fit into a shipping container. The plant consists of three components. A... Read more →


Researchers at Stanford University have demonstrated solar water splitting by photovoltaic-electrolysis with a solar-to-hydrogen (STH) efficiency of more than 30%—a new record. The prior record was 24.4%. An open-access paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Communications. The system consists of two polymer electrolyte membrane electrolyzers in... Read more →


Earlier this year, The US Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories identified the potential of hydrogen to decarbonize deeply a multitude of sectors in a proposal termed “H2@Scale”. Preliminary analysis performed by the national laboratories on the H2@Scale concept indicated that nearly a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is... Read more →


Researchers at Stanford University and the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have developed a new highly active and stable IrOx/SrIrO3 catalyst for the oxygen evolution reaction (OER). The new catalyst outperforms known IrOx and ruthenium oxide (RuOx) systems, the only other OER catalysts that have reasonable activity in... Read more →


Using commercially available solar cells and none of the usual rare metals, researchers at the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) have designed an intrinsically stable and scalable solar water splitting device that is fully based on earth-abundant materials, with a solar-to-hydrogen... Read more →


Using an engineered strain of the phototropic bacterium Rhodopseudomonas palustris as a biocatalyst, a team from the University of Washington, Utah State University and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University have reduced carbon dioxide to methane in one enzymatic step. The work demonstrates the feasibility of using microbes to generate... Read more →


In a new study from the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Illinois at Chicago, researchers report devising a new transition metal dichalcogenide (TMDC) nanoarchitecture for catalytic electrochemical reduction of CO2 to carbon monoxide (CO) in an ionic liquid. In their paper published in the... Read more →


Researchers at Stanford University, with colleagues in China, have developed a tandem solar cell consisting of an approximately 700-nm-thick nanoporous Mo-doped bismuth vanadate (BiVO4) (Mo:BiVO4) layer on an engineered Si nanocone substrate. The nanocone/Mo:BiVO4 assembly is in turn combined with a solar cell made of perovskite. When placed in water,... Read more →


Harvard “bionic leaf 2.0” exceeds efficiency of photosynthesis in nature; hydrogen and liquid fuels

Researchers at Harvard have created a hybrid water splitting–biosynthetic system based on a biocompatible Earth-abundant inorganic catalyst system to split water into molecular hydrogen and oxygen (H2 and O2) at low driving voltages. Grown in contact with these catalysts, the bacterium Ralstonia eutropha then consumes the produced H2 to synthesize... Read more →


Solar-driven thermochemical cycles offer a direct means of storing solar energy in the chemical bonds of energy-rich molecules. By utilizing a redox material such as ceria (CeO2) as a reactive medium, STCs can produce hydrogen and carbon monoxide—i.e., syngas—from water and CO2. The syngas can subsequently be upgraded to hydrocarbon... Read more →


The US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced up to $30 million in funding for a new program for technologies that use renewable energy to convert air and water into cost-competitive liquid fuels. (DE-FOA-0001562) ARPA-E’s Renewable Energy to Fuels through Utilization of Energy-dense Liquids (REFUEL) program seeks... Read more →


Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington have demonstrated a new solar process for the one-step, gas-phase conversion of CO2 and H2O to C5+ liquid hydrocarbons and O2 by operating the photocatalytic reaction at elevated temperatures and pressures. The photothermocatalytic process for the synthesis of hydrocarbons—including liquid alkanes, aromatics,... Read more →