New method for fabricating photoelectrodes for solar hydrogen production

Researchers from ANU have developed a novel way of combining catalysts with semiconductors, via a simple two-step process, resulting in photoelectrodes with enhanced efficiency and durability for solar to hydrogen production.

Background

Photoelectrodes directly produce storable energy when exposed to sunlight and are an essential component of many solar energy conversion processes, such as solar rechargeable redox flow cells/batteries, water electrolysis, hydrogen fuel generation, and more. Historically, photoelectrodes suffer from low efficiency and rapid corrosion when immersed in water and are typically not conducive to scaling up for commercial production.

The technology from The Australian National University overcomes these two main issues by (i) using mechanically stable and electrically conductive metal foil as the substrate for catalyst deposition, rather than the semiconductor itself, which permits a much broader range of deposition methods that can be used and enables deposition to be scaled up to large sheets of foil, which can then be cut to size and placed on semiconductor devices; and (ii) protecting the photoelectrode with the non-permeable catalyst-supporting metal foil, which simultaneously protects the photoelectrode from corrosion and increases its efficiency.

Technology

Potential benefits

  • Versatility - catalyst is deposited onto the metal foil rather than the semiconductor substrate, which widens the range of deposition methods that can be used
  • Catalyst flexibility - solution-based deposition can be used with this approach, plus a range of catalysts can be used/selected for specific applications
  • Environmental flexibility - catalysts can be used over a wide pH range (acidic, neutral, alkaline)
  • Protection of semiconductor - the metal foil provides a stable support for the catalyst while protecting the semiconductor from chemical damage during operation (chemical isolation)
  • Scalability - catalyst(s) can be deposited onto an entire sheet of metal foil rather than on individual semiconductors
  • High efficiency - the metal foils are mechanically stable and electrically conductive, resulting in improved conductivity and catalytic activity

Potential applications

  • Solar flow batteries
  • Carbon dioxide reduction and ammonia production
  • Water splitting (water electrolysis)
  • Hydrogen fuel production
  • Photoelectrode/semiconductor materials and devices

Opportunity

ANU is seeking partnering opportunities for this technology. ANU would like to engage with industry partners, working collaboratively, to integrate this technology into industry specific applications and manufacturing processes.

IP status

The IP is owned by The Australian National University and the subject of a provisional patent application.

 

 

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