Imperial College London has launched a new £4.2 million (US$8.4 million) research program to develop both biological and chemical solar-driven processes to develop renewable and cost-effective methods of producing hydrogen which can be used to operate fuel cells.
The five-year project aims to develop materials and technologies for the enhanced production of hydrogen from water using solar energy to drive the process.
The biological process focus on photolytic hydrogen generation using green algae. The oxygen and hydrogen produced will then be separated and the hydrogen stored, ready for use in a fuel cell. The chemical process will use photoelectrodes to directly split water into molecular oxygen and hydrogen using both inorganic electrodes and molecular catalysts whose function will mimic the water oxidation enzyme of plant photosynthesis.
The project will culminate in the design, build and operation of a working prototype system, with the aim of demonstrating that solar energy can be directly harvested to produce hydrogen, and in turn cost effective electricity and heat.
The program draws together a new interdisciplinary team from across Imperial College, under the umbrella of the Energy Futures Lab, with Professor Nigel Brandon as the Principal Investigator. The team comprises Jim Barber (molecular biosciences), James Durrant (photochemistry), Klaus Hellgardt (catalytic reactor engineering), Geoff Kelsall (electrochemical reactor engineering), David Klug (molecular energy transduction), Geoff Maitland (energy engineering), and Peter Nixon (biology).
The College’s Energy Futures Lab is receiving the funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).