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Monash “artificial photosynthesis” system achieves in excess of 22% efficiency for production of hydrogen from water

A team at Monash University (Australia) has developed an “artificial photosynthesis” system that delivers the highest efficiency reported to date—in excess of 22%—for the solar-driven conversion of water to hydrogen. A paper on the researchers’s work is published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science.

Although some solar-driven fuel generating systems have reached efficiencies as high as 18%, they are often based on precious metal catalysts, or offer only limited stability. We describe here a system that utilises concentrated solar power, which is inexpensive to produce, and an electrolyser module based on Earth-abundant materials capable of operating under benign conditions.

—Spiccia et al.

The electrolyser functions in electrolytes with pH values ranging from neutral to alkaline, including river water, allowing implementation in a variety of geographic locations.


  • Leone Spiccia, Shannon Bonke, Mathias Wiechen and Doug MacFarlane (2015) “Renewable Fuels from Concentrated Solar Power: Towards Practical Artificial Photosynthesis” Energy Environ. Sci. doi: 10.1039/C5EE02214B




22% efficiency

Earth abundant materials


Operates at a variety of pH values.

Percival, you can stop looking now, we have found the Graal!


This is efficient enough to start worldwide clean H2 production for FCEVs with varous REs.

I would certainly buy one of the current FCEV if and when (clean) H2 stations become available and H2 price is equivalent to (100% to 125%) of the $1.20/L we currently pay for gas.


Assuming that this really reaches production, it would fix the prominent issue with hydrogen being produced from fossil fuels thus not being renewable.

Efficiency and cost are still problematic though. The 22% of solar conversion efficiency is on par with solar-electric panels but the loss on fuel cells is still much bigger (~60% eff = ~40% loss) than the charging/discharging loss of a li-ion battery (>90% eff = <10% loss).

I am also not sure that I would want such a dangerous gas around my house / in my garage (hydrogen being so hard to contain) so I would definitely not be an early adopter and would want to see a lot of hydrogen vehicles in service without leaking issues before I even consider it. Petrol and li-ion batteries are both safe enough (even li-ion in EVs can be proven by now).



It is meaningless to compare the efficiency of solar panels and BEVs with power not generated at night, or anywhere much north of San Diego in sufficient quantity in winter with hydrogen production which substantially solves storage issues.

The original town gas was around 50% hydrogen, so we have considerable experience dealing with it for a hundred years or so.

In much of the world at a rather lower pressure natural gas vehicles by the million are performing acceptably in regards to safety, and hydrogen has demonstrated its safety to licensing authorities around the world.

' --Hydrogen fueling stations in the U.S. using Linde North America fueling technology have reached over half million fills -- and still climbing -- powering a variety of vehicles, including forklifts, cars and buses.'

Hydrogen is not absolutely safe, but nothing which has enough power to act as a fuel is that.

Ing. A.S.Stefanes

Hydrogen sounds very promising, however, when given the choice, I would rather use water for drinking water for those who need it, than to use it to produce a "fuel".

Water could become the new oil with high prices. And you can't just tap into river water, that water already has a purpose, to be a river!

We need to use less potable water, specifically: meat, dairy, egg industry uses a LOT of water. Go VEGAN!

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