Scientists have found a quick method of generating hydrogen from water using a catalyst in the presence of sunlight.
In the present study, scientists used cobalt oxide nanoparticles to break water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen.
According to Jiming Bao, lead author of the paper and an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UH, this is the first experiment to use cobalt oxide and the first to use neutral water under visible light at high energy conversion efficiency.
Nanoparticles for the present study were prepared in two ways, i.e. femtosecond laser ablation and through mechanical ball milling, and nanoparticles prepared through both ways worked well. Moreover, different sources of light were used including laser, white light simulating solar spectrum and natural sunlight.
The experiment worked equally well in the presence of sunlight and nanoparticles, hydrogen and oxygen were separated almost immediately from water. However, one of the problems in this process is the reduced lifespan of cobalt oxide nanoparticles that became deactivated after about an hour of reaction.
Although the results were commendable in this study but the conversion rate is still too low with a solar-to-hydrogen efficiency rate of about 5% that it cannot be used commercially at this time. According to Bao, better efficiency rate would be nearly 10%, i.e. 10% of solar energy would result in hydrogen chemical energy. You can work to improve the efficiency of this process.
Among the other research suggestions are reducing the cost of the process and increased the lifespan of cobalt oxide nanoparticles.
Researchers split water into hydrogen, oxygen using light, nanoparticles - EurekAlert (http://goo.gl/2Wg8hw)
Efficient solar water-splitting using a nanocrystalline CoO photocatalyst - Nature Nanotechnology (http://goo.gl/OmtVBu)