- Heterostructured catalyst increases solar cell energy conversion efficiency
- Enables light absorption from ultraviolet (UV) to visible and near-infrared (IR) light
- Allows for cheaper, more efficient hydrogen (H2) fuel generation from seawater
Researchers at the University of Central Florida have invented a heterostructured catalyst that increases the energy harvesting capabilities of solar cells. Besides enhancing solar cells and solar fuel cells, it can also function as a photocatalyst for water splitting—the chemical reaction that breaks down water into oxygen (O) and hydrogen (H2). It thus enables a cheaper, more efficient way to produce hydrogen fuel from seawater.
The heterostructured catalyst exhibits enhanced light absorption in a broad range of the solar spectrum, from the ultraviolet (UV) light region to the visible and near-infrared (IR) light regions (generally in a range of 300 nm to 700 nm). Developed using low-cost, nontoxic, and chemically stable titanium dioxide (titania, TiO2), the technology works without the need for heavy doping, narrow band gap semiconductors, or costly and potentially environmentally toxic noble metals and co-catalysts.
The UCF technology comprises a thin film heterostructured catalyst, methods for forming the catalyst, and using the catalyst. One method includes anodizing a titanium surface on a substrate to form a 2-dimensional (2D), periodically ordered array of titania (TiO2) nanocavities. A metal layer or a metal compound layer on the titania nanocavities follows. The substrate can be a silicon wafer, a glass wafer, or a conducting polymer. Another method converts the titania nanocavities into strontium titanate (SrTiO3) nanocavities. The metal layer or metal compound layer on the inner surface of each nanocavity wall can be molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), SrTiO3, or a variety of different metals or metal alloys. Nanopore size can be 10 to 200 nm with a nanowall thickness of 5 nm to 20 nm.
The research team is looking for partners to develop the technology further for commercialization.
- Solar energy harvesting
- Clean fuels generation (for example, hydrogen, methane)
MoS2/TiO2 Heterostructures as Nonmetal Plasmonic Photocatalysts for Highly Efficient Hydrogen Evolution, Energy & Environmental Science, 2018,11, 106-114