April 6, 2009

Metal heats up water splitting

Heat up the right metal-bearing molecule and you can generate hydrogen from water using sunlight.

Water splitting has the potential to cleanly generate hydrogen for fuel, but a lot of research remains before water splitting can be made practical.

The metal complex water splitting technique uses a molecule that contains a ruthenium atom at its center. Adding water to the molecule and heating it to 25 degrees Celsius alters the molecule, and then heating it to 100 degrees Celsius alters the molecule again and releases hydrogen molecules. Exposing the molecule to light at this point releases oxygen molecules and converts the molecule back to its starting configuration.

The molecule provides a simple solution to the difficult oxygen-generating half of the water splitting cycle.

Systems that use sunlight for the heat and light steps of the process could cleanly generate hydrogen.

Research paper:
Consecutive Thermal H2 and Light-Induced O2 Evolution from Water Promoted by a Metal Complex
Science, April 3, 2009

Researchers' homepages:
David Milstein's group
Lev Weiner
Leonid Konstantinovski
Linda J. W. Shimon
Mark A. Iron

Related stories and briefs:
Cheap catalyst boosts solar hydrogen prospects -- related research
Carbon promises cheap solar hydrogen -- related research
Coated nano mesh gets more out of light -- related research
Penn State's Craig Grimes -- Q&A with leading water-splitting researcher

Back to ERN April 6, 2009



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