30 September 2004
Solar energy, nanotechnology hike hydrogen production
Nanotechnology is leading the way for a British company, Hydrogen Solar, to convert light and water directly into hydrogen fuel.
“Hydrogen Solar developed a nanocrystalline material that will dramatically improve the production of hydrogen by using solar energy to split water more efficiently into its elemental parts,” said Dr. David Auty, Hydrogen Solar’s chief executive.
In a move to take full advantage of solar energy, the company plans to open a laboratory in Las Vegas. The company is now looking for scientists and engineers to work at the lab. Hydrogen Solar needs scientists to drive the development work forward and engineers to participate in the engineering and design aspects of the Tandem Cell, including design of the Cell and components for optimized manufacturing, performance, durability, and safety. Hydrogen Solar (http://www.hydrogensolar.com) plans to improve the energy conversion efficiencies of the nanocrystalline thin films and develop industrial-scale production methods that are consistent and replicate or exceed laboratory results.
The company expects its technology to see use as a clean, CO2-free fuel for transport and home energy installations. The technology is now able to convert more than 8% of sunlight energy directly into pure hydrogen fuel. The company is fast closing on the target 10% performance recognized as the benchmark for commercially viable production on the open energy market.
“At the benchmark 10% performance level, a 7-meter-by-7-meter Tandem Cell unit on a double garage roof is capable of producing enough hydrogen from sunlight to run a Mercedes A-Class vehicle 11,000 miles over a year in Los Angeles light conditions,” Auty said. The unit can work on factory and garage roofs.
Central to the increases in performance of the cell unit is the use of nanocrystalline coatings. Using metal oxides, the coatings produce high photo current densities, and create a highly efficient means of converting light and water into hydrogen fuel from one single unit.
In the cell there are two photo catalytic cells arranged in series. A nanocrystalline film coats the front cell. The coating absorbs high-energy (ultraviolet and blue) light. The lower-energy light (green and red wavelengths) passes through the front cell and into the second. Here, the light excites the electrons in this cell’s coating, which sets up an electrical potential. This electricity splits the water molecules in an electrolyte, producing hydrogen.
For related information, go to www.isa.org/manufacturing_automation.