Solar Energy Plays a Bigger Role in Green Hydrogen Energy Production

Solar energy in abundance worldwide has made solar panels and energy-generating technologies globally popular in the last decade. The steady growth of solar energy reliance has unlocked many opportunities for new future renewable energy generation technologies. One of these is green hydrogen energy production using solar energy in photocatalysis.

Today’s hydrogen comes mostly from fossil fuel energy generation. To do away with fossil fuel energy, photocatalysis plays a huge role in producing high hydrogen energy levels. Photocatalysts are materials that use light to break down pollutants and transform them into inert substances such as carbon dioxide, water, and oxygen.

Using photocatalysis in water within sunlight’s presence is the cleanest way to produce hydrogen. Hydrogen is useful for energy production, such as through electrolysis or through fuel cells. Plus, using conjugate polymer with iridium produces zero carbon emissions and greenhouse gases, making both solar panel and hydrogen the biggest sources of future renewable energy — even with large-scale energy production implementations.

Both solar, wind, and green hydrogen are the possible answers to the global energy and greenhouse crisis. With further developments, such as this one, the future looks clearer than ever.

Check out Interesting Engineering’s technical explanation on photocatalysis and solar energy’s role in green hydrogen production below.

The practical approach to green hydrogen fuel production

The production of green hydrogen from water requires a material that could trigger the breakdown of water into hydrogen and oxygen using light. Such material is called a photocatalyst. Scientists have been using sacrificial electron donors for hydrogen production in many previous experiments.

Although these agents could increase hydrogen yield by lowering the recombination tendency of electrons and holes, they couldn’t be employed for large-scale hydrogen fuel generation. The researcher at the University of Strathclyde claims that storable hydrogen can be produced in large quantities by performing photocatalysis of water in the presence of sunlight using a particulate conjugated polymer containing a metal catalyst as iridium.

When asked about the significance of the conjugate polymer, Principal researcher Sebastian Sprick told Interesting Engineering, “Conjugated polymers (loaded with material like Iridium) have significant potential due to their tunability by chemical synthesis allowing for better materials design in the future.” However, since Iridium is a rare material, Sprick further adds, “research will focus now on replacing these rare metal catalysts to allow for scale-up of materials to tackle hydrogen production at scale efficiently.”

Some previous studies have confirmed that the biggest challenge in green hydrogen production is to ensure the availability of a vast renewable power source. As solar power is both an easily accessible and renewable source of energy, and it is available in an abundant amount on Earth. Sprick and his team of researchers reveal that photocatalytic splitting of water under the influence of sunlight can prove to be the most efficient and cleanest way to produce green hydrogen on a large scale. 

For instance, the amount of solar energy that reaches Earth in an hour is more than enough to meet the global power demands for an entire year. A research paper published last year in Nature also highlights that solar energy-backed photocatalysis is a highly efficient and budget-friendly technique to produce hydrogen. 

According to Sprick, “the reported photocatalyst can access solar energy through energetically unfavorable processes to generate a storable energy carrier in the form of hydrogen from water. The hydrogen then can be converted cleanly into electricity in a fuel cell with water being the only side-product.”

Is green hydrogen the future?

Hydrogen produced through solar photocatalysis using conjugate polymer does not lead to carbon emissions. Plus, no greenhouse gases are released when this hydrogen is turned into a hydrogen fuel cell. Therefore, almost clean and green hydrogen production can be achieved using this method. (Continue reading here to learn more)

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