In a recent development, a sustainable approach for the production of hydrogen fuel has been developed by a team of researchers at KAUST to harness its potential for the development of renewable energy. The process involves light-trapping materials that work in the same manner as the natural mechanism of photosynthetic water splitting. Solar-based Hydrogen gas has been recognized as a vital feedstock that has the potential to contribute substantially for development of renewable energy. However, its capabilities are not fully recognized as this gas is largely sourced from fossil fuels.
Use of Metallic Nanostructures Viable to Boost Efficiency of Solar-based Hydrogen Gas Production
As the development of complex enzymes within plants in a laboratory environment is practically not possible, researchers have developed a particular kind of photocatalyst that employs high-energy, hot electrons to break into hydrogen and oxygen gas. Lately, the use of nanostructured metals that transform solar electrons into robust, wave-like plasmon resonances have greatly influenced hydrogen production. Using high-speed metal plasmons, carriers are transferred to catalytic locations before they relax and lower catalytic efficiency.
On the other hand, the use of metal nanoparticles is not viable as they do not respond to the entire spectrum of visible light. Plasmonic systems have specific properties that trap light only at specific frequencies.
The new methodology devised by the researchers involved using metal nanostructures called epsilon-near-zero metamaterials, which is in the form of a small pine tree. The cavities in the center of the protruding metal branches bring the propagation of sunlight to almost a standstill, thereby allowing the epsilon-near-zero substance to trap the entire visible light colors to the same nanometer-scale locations.