HyperSolar, the developer of an innovative technology to generate renewable hydrogen using sunlight and any source of water, recently reported the successful development of an efficient and economical catalyst for oxygen production – a crucial half reaction of water-splitting for hydrogen production.
The quantity of hydrogen formed by water splitting is essentially restricted by the slower oxygen half reaction. Creating an efficient oxygen catalyst is a key milestone in the Company’s effort to split water molecules for the making of renewable hydrogen.
The Company is certain that a commercially viable oxygen catalyst has to satisfy five important features when incorporated on the surface of a solar cell for water-splitting:
1) Highly transparent to make best use of sunlight reaching the solar cell; 2) Stable over an extended period; 3) Uses economical materials; 4) Efficient; and 5) Deposited under ambient pressure and temperature using environmentally amiable conditions.
Presently, a catalyst that addresses all five features is not available.
At present, oxygen catalysts that perform excellently are mainly made of rare earth elements such as ruthenium and iridium. Many researches have concentrated on creating highly efficient oxygen catalysts using earth abundant materials; however development of a catalyst satisfying all of the above features has remained unattainable.
HyperSolar in collaboration with The University of Iowa has made some important breakthroughs recently toward designing such a catalyst:
- Developed a stable and efficient oxygen catalyst using economical earth abundant elements.
- Developed a very low cost ambient process to place an ultrathin layer (less than 10 nm) of the catalyst on the surface of a solar cell. The deposition process is very scalable and quick (can be done in less than 10 seconds) enabling deposition on large area solar panels for commercial production.
- Because of the ultrathin nature of the film, the whole catalyst layer is 86% transparent to visible sunlight.
- Demonstrated stable and efficient operation for over 48 hours under challenging operating conditions. The efficiency is approximately estimated to be 75% of the efficiency of iridium.
Presently, the team is additionally enhancing the catalyst to attain 90% of the efficiency of iridium based catalysts, while concurrently enhancing the catalyst deposition process on an amorphous silicon solar cell available in the market, as part of a commercial prototype under progress.
“By identifying a simple, environmentally-benign, rapid process to integrate inexpensive, transparent catalyst on solar cells, we are edging closer to our goal of low-cost green hydrogen for commercial use,” said Joun Lee, CTO of HyperSolar.
When it comes to hydrogen it’s all about the cost. Anyone can split water using high-school electrolysis to produce hydrogen. But, the commercial challenge is to make the system cost so low that solar-based hydrogen can truly be the one clean fuel to replace all fuels. By fundamentally reducing the costs and increasing the efficiency of every component from the nano-scale up, we believe our path has the best potential to produce the lowest cost hydrogen.
Tim Young, CEO, HyperSolar
HyperSolar’s research is focused on creating an economical and submersible hydrogen production particle that can split water molecules under the sunlight, emulating the main functions of photosynthesis. Each particle is a full hydrogen generator that has a unique high voltage solar cell bonded to efficient catalysts by an exclusive protective coating.