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HyperSolar Reachs Volt Milestone In Solar Hydrogen Technology

Antonio Pasolini's picture
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Antonio Pasolini is a blogger focused on renewable energy who is based between the UK and Brazil. He writes about alternative energy for Energe Refuge (www.energyrefuge.com).

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  • Aug 23, 2013 12:00 am GMT
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hypersolarHyperSolar, which develops of a new technology to produce renewable hydrogen using sunlight and any source of water, has announced that its artificial photosynthesis technology is now capable of producing 1.0 volt open circuit voltage for use in direct solar hydrogen production. This achievement represents a voltage increase over the previous 0.2 volt just 8 months ago, and 0.75 volt just 3 months ago.

The theoretical voltage for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen is 1.23 volts, and approximately 1.5 volts in real-world systems. But so far achieving 1.5 volts using inexpensive solar cells has eluded the world. For example, silicon solar cells are the most inexpensive and abundant, but their 0.7 volt is not enough to split water. Commercially available high voltage solar cells are unfortunately too expensive for use in hydrogen production.

“Our cutting-edge research program at the University of California Santa Barbara led by Dr. Syed Mubeen Hussaini continues to make impressive progress,” said Tim Young, CEO of HyperSolar. “The 1.0 volt milestone is very exciting in that it provides us with a clear and encouraging roadmap to reach the 1.5 volts needed for water splitting.The semi-conductor materials used are very inexpensive, which gives us confidence that a low cost system is possible. The process to make this novel solar cell is equally exciting in that it is a simple solutions-based chemistry process. It does not require conventional expensive semiconductor processes and facilities. It was literally made in a beaker.”

HyperSolar’s research is centered on developing a low-cost and submersible hydrogen production particle that can split water molecules under the sun, emulating the core functions of photosynthesis. Each particle is a complete hydrogen generator that contains a novel high voltage solar cell bonded to chemical catalysts by a proprietary encapsulation coating. A video of an early proof-of-concept prototype can be viewed at here. HyperSolar recently extended its sponsored research agreement with UCSB to further the development.

While 1.0 volt may not be commercially viable for water splitting, Hypersolar says it is viable in high value photo-catalysis application in the chemical industry, such as bromine extraction from wastewater.

Source: Hypersolar

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John Miller's picture
John Miller on Aug 22, 2013

Hydrogen production is one of two major challenges to make this technology possibly a viable and economically feasible alternative to fossil fuels.  The second challenge is developing the ‘fuel cells’ necessary to convert the hydrogen into useful and affordable electric power needed to displace fossil fuels such as petroleum consumed in the vast majority of lighter duty vehicles.  The Federal Government has helped support research in both hydrogen production and fuel cells through the NREL organization.  If and when successful, hydrogen powered vehicles could someday compete with EV battery technologies.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Aug 22, 2013

Combining solar PV energy collection and water electrolysis in the same device for artificial photosynthesis sounds exciting, but in reality there are big advantages to keeping these function separate.

One issue is that plumbing many square miles of solar collection field for hydrogen collection has got to be more expensive than hooking things up with wires.  One leaking pipe can blow the whole thing up.

But the main issue is that a hydrogen plant that accepts power from the grid can use solar energy as well as wind or nuclear.  And it can be dispatchable, so it can be the primary means of integrating variable renewables onto the electric grid, greatly reducing the need for costly batteries as well as their energy losses.

 

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Aug 23, 2013

Without reading the background, I’m guessing this is quite different than a PV producing voltage. In a PV, the electron is excited to a new quantum state allowed by crystal “conduction bands.” The junction of two different crystals will have different populations of electrons in the respective conduction bands, thus a voltage. A PV stack could produce the 1.5 volt dissociative potential energy. So this is something different. A PV is statistical mechanics, thus poor energy conversion efficiency. This could plausibly get very different conversion efficiencies.

Thanks for the reference. I gotta start learnin stuff like this agin.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Jan 16, 2015

Would be great if it succeeds!

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