Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Harnessing Organic Semiconductors For Green Hydrogen Production From Solar Energy

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  • Offers cost-effectiveness and efficiency, challenging water damage limitations.
  • A robust photoelectrode merging organics with inorganics reshapes hydrogen production and propels sustainable energy solutions closer to a carbon-neutral future.
(a) Scheme for the fabrication of NiFe(OH)x/PSi/Ti–Fe2O3. (b) Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) image of NiFe(OH)x/PSi/Ti–Fe2O3 and (c) corresponding elemental mapping of Fe, O, Ti, Sn, N, S, Si, and C. High-resolution TEM images of (d) PSi/Ti–Fe2O3 and (e) NiFe(OH)x/PSi/Ti–Fe2O3. The inset in panel d shows a high-resolution TEM image of Ti–Fe2O3, and the scale bar is 2 nm. Credit: ACS Energy Letters (2023). DOI: 10.1021/acsenergylett.3c00755

The process of generating green hydrogen from solar energy revolves around the decomposition of water into its basic components, driven by charges generated within semiconductors that capture sunlight. Organic semiconductors present numerous benefits, including cost-effectiveness, versatility in manufacturing processes, and simplified large-scale production. Their solar energy conversion efficiency results in improved hydrogen production efficiency. Their vulnerability to water damage has historically restricted their use in photoelectrodes.

Under the leadership of Professor Ji-Hyun Jang from the School of Energy and Chemical Engineering at UNIST, a team of researchers has accomplished a noteworthy advancement in photoelectrode development. In a collaborative research effort involving Professor Junghoon Lee from Dongseo University and Dr. Hyo-Jin Ahn from the German Engineering Research and Development Center LSTME Busan, the team achieved the creation of a robust and efficient photoelectrode. This was accomplished by integrating organic semiconductors as an intermediate layer within the established inorganic semiconductor-based photoelectrodes. Previous research predominantly concentrated on the use of inorganic semiconductors in constructing photoelectrodes. 

To address this issue, the research team applied a layer of organic semiconductors onto the surface of traditional iron oxide-based photoelectrodes. This coating ensured stability even when exposed to water. They introduced a nickel/iron double-layer hydroxide catalyst as an extra protective barrier over the organic semiconductor coating, preventing direct contact with water. This strategy enabled the charges generated from solar energy absorption to drive hydrogen production reactions efficiently.

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In surpassing the constraints associated with conventional inorganic semiconductor-focused photoelectrodes, they have showcased the broader applicability of organic semiconductors in hydrogen production via photoelectrodes. This paves the way for improved efficiency and stability and is crucial in advancing sustainable energy solutions, a significant step toward a carbon-neutral future.

Akanksha Gaur
Akanksha Gaur
Akanksha Sondhi Gaur is a journalist at EFY. She has a German patent and brings a robust blend of 7 years of industrial & academic prowess to the table. Passionate about electronics, she has penned numerous research papers showcasing her expertise and keen insight.

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