Summary: Researchers have found a way to harness the entire spectrum of sunlight
Original author and publication date: Department of Energy News – January 22, 2020
Futurizonte Editor’s Note: ” The finding could help humans transition away from fossil fuels and toward energy sources that do not contribute to climate change”, says the article. We hope it will.
From the article:
Scientists for the first time have developed a single molecule that can absorb sunlight efficiently and also act as a catalyst to transform solar energy into hydrogen, a clean alternative to fuel for things like gas-powered vehicles.
This new molecule collects energy from the entire visible spectrum, and can harness more than 50% more solar energy than current solar cells can. The finding could help humans transition away from fossil fuels and toward energy sources that do not contribute to climate change.
The researchers outlined their findings in a study published today in Nature Chemistry. The research team was led by Claudia Turro, a chemistry professor and director of The Ohio State University Center for Chemical and Biophysical Dynamics.
“The whole idea is that we can use photons from the sun and transform it into hydrogen. To put it simply, we are saving the energy from sunlight and storing it into chemical bonds so it can be used at a later time,” Turro said.
Photons are elemental particles of sunlight that contain energy.
The researchers showed, for the first time, that it is possible to collect energy from the entire visible spectrum of sunlight — including low-energy infrared, a part of the solar spectrum that previously had been difficult to collect — and transform it, quickly and efficiently, into hydrogen. Hydrogen is a clean fuel, meaning it doesn’t produce carbon or carbon dioxide as a byproduct of its use.
“What makes it work is that the system is able to put the molecule into an excited state, where it absorbs the photon and is able to store two electrons to make hydrogen,” Turro said.
“This storing of two electrons in a single molecule derived from two photons, and using them together to make hydrogen, is unprecedented.”
Turning energy from the sun into, say, fuel for a car, first requires a mechanism to collect the energy. That energy then has to be converted into a fuel. The conversion requires something called a catalyst — a thing that speeds up a chemical reaction, allowing the conversion from solar energy to usable energy like hydrogen.