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DOE and NSF Award $2.5M for Research into New Materials for Photosplitting Water to Produce Hydrogen

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have received about $2.5 million to identify new materials that will efficiently absorb sunlight and split water into hydrogen.

For the next three years, chemical engineering Professor Charles Mullins, chemistry Professor Allen Bard and mathematics Professor Irene M. Gamba will collaborate on the endeavor, which encompasses two grants from the National Science Foundation ($1.4 million) and the US Department of Energy (about $1.1 million). Bard and Mullins are affiliated with the Center for Electrochemistry at the university.

The researchers will be examining novel metal oxides (variations of more common ones like titanium dioxide and iron oxide), which can act as semiconductors. Bard and Mullins will use a combinatorial approach for rapidly making complex compositions of metal oxides and testing them for their promise as photoelectrocatalysts.

Once promising materials have been identified, we’ll research how to create nano-scale structures of that material that enhance the intrinsic properties of the material for light-absorption and water-splitting chemistry.

—Charles Mullins

Mullins said that researchers have studied water splitting using photoelectrochemistry for the past 40 years and progress has been made. However, efficient, cheap and abundant materials have yet to be discovered to make solar water splitting a viable process.

Gamba’s past work in the mathematical treatment of electron and hole transport in semiconductors makes her essential to establishing useful theoretical models for these systems.

The Center for Electrochemsitry is a multi-faculty collaboration devoted to research on fundamental and applied aspects of electrochemistry, which has already received research support for work on electrochemical energy sources such as batteries and fuel cells, solar energy research and new materials.

Comments

Henry Gibson

The chemical processes for splitting water with heat should be perfected and then parabolic mirrors used to collect enough heat from the sun.

The truth is that to use solar energy, laws must be passed to require it just like laws are passed to require efficient refrigerators.

The most cost effective use of solar energy is to heat water for washing and heating a house. The vacuum solar collectors can do it in the winter and the Bubble Action Pump can move the heat into your water heater in the cellar without moving parts or pumps.

Solar energy is expensive to collect for industrialised nations. Many places could use solar cooking, but enough capital cannot be put together at one time, so forests are destroyed.

If there were a simple process that used water and platinum to make hydrogen, we could not afford the cost of the hydrogen. Just make integrated circuit tiny photocells that produce the right voltage and immerse them in a very dilute solution of sulphuric acid. ..HG..

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