Scientists have developed a unique, low-cost hydrogen production method using solar power.
The scientists at EPFL’s Laboratory of Renewable Energy Science and Engineering (LRESE), have developed a solar hydrogen generation method born from the idea of concentrating solar irradiation to produce a larger amount of hydrogen over a specific area at a reduced cost.
Their system can transform solar power into hydrogen with a 17% conversion rate.
The scientists developed an enhanced photo-electrochemical system that can burn solar power into hydrogen with a 17% conversion rate and unprecedented power and current density, Tech Xplore reported. This occurs when the photo-electrochemical system is combined with concentrated solar irradiation and smart thermal management.
Additionally, the scientists’ solar hydrogen generation technology is stable and is capable of handling the stochastic dynamics of solar irradiation every day.
“In our device, a thin layer of water runs over a solar cell to cool it,” says Saurabh Tembhurne, a co-author of the study.
“The system temperature remains relatively low, allowing the solar cell to deliver better performance.”
Fredy Nandjou, a researcher at the LRESE further adds that “the heat extracted by the water is transferred to catalysts, thereby improving the chemical reaction and increasing the hydrogen production rate.”
The scientists’ research was published in the journal Nature Energy.
The solar hydrogen generation system is now being tested out of the lab.
The scientists’ lab-scale demonstrations of their device using the LRESE’s unique solar simulator were so promising that they have upscaled the device and have moved to the next phase of testing outdoors on the EPFL’s Lausanne campus.
For their outdoor tests, the team of scientists installed a 7-meter diameter parabolic mirror that concentrates solar irradiation by a factor of 1,000 and drives the system. The first of their outdoor tests are already in progress.
The research team estimates that their device can run for more than 30,000 hours, which is about equal to just under four years. Even better, it can achieve these without needing any of its parts replaced. That said, if some parts are replaced every four years, the device can run for as long as 20 years.
“In sunny weather, our system can generate up to 1 kilogram of hydrogen per day, which is enough fuel for a hydrogen-powered car to travel 100 to 150 kilometers,” Sophia Haussener, the head of the LRESE and the project lead said of the solar hydrogen generation system.