RESEARCH
November 11, 2008

Carbon promises cheap solar hydrogen

Mix carbon and nitrogen the right way and you have an inexpensive catalyst for extracting hydrogen from water in sunlight.

The carbon and nitrogen mix forms plastic-like sheets that are broken down into a powder to increase surface area. The powdered carbon material splits water into hydrogen and oxygen using energy from sunlight. The catalyst is readily made from abundant materials

The material is less expensive and easier to work with than previous catalysts, and could make solar water splitting an ecologically and economically practical way to generate hydrogen for fuel cells and vehicles.

More work is needed; the catalyst is inefficient and inconsistent from batch to batch. The researchers have achieved better results by putting small amounts of platinum in the mix.

Research paper:
A Metal-Free Polymeric Photocatalyst for Hydrogen Production from Water Under Visible Light
Nature Materials, published online November 9, 2008

Researchers' homepages:
Xinchen Wang
Domen-Kubota Laboratory
Arne Thomas
Johan Carlsson
Markus Antonietti

Related stories and briefs:
Cheap catalyst boosts solar hydrogen prospects -- related research


Back to ERN November 17/24, 2008

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