NTU Makes Significant Breakthroughs in Solar Hydrogen Production
Prof. Chun‐Wei Chen (陳俊維) and his team from NTU’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the Center of Atomic Initiative for New Materials (AI-MAT) made significant breakthroughs in their study of hydrogen production from solar energy. In recent years, scientific studies on renewable energy have made significant advances. Solar energy is regarded as an important source of renewable energy and is now more commonly seen in our daily lives. However, one of the greatest bottlenecks in solar energy application is the problem of storage. If solar energy cannot be stored, it can only be accessed when there is sunlight. Scientists have striven to discover how to effectively convert solar energy into fuel for storage and transportation to overcome solar intermittency. As a result, using solar power for water splitting and solar-to-fuel conversion is one of the most important research focuses nowadays.
Silicon is the most widely used material for converting sunlight into sustainable hydrogen energy due to its crystalline structure, exceptional ability to absorb sunlight, and ready availability in the market. However, silicon’s instability in electrolytic solutions and high reflectivity poses a major problem. Chen’s research team utilized graphene, an atomic layer material, and a silicon Schottky junction photocathode to enhance photo-electrochemical efficiency. Graphene is only one atom thick, making it the thinnest material on earth. Since its discovery in 2004, it has become one of the most promising materials and also led to the study of two-dimensional atomic layer materials. The 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov for this groundbreaking discovery.
Chen’s creation of a three-dimensional textured graphene/p‐Si Schottky junction photocathode for hydrogen generation can enhance light harvesting efficiency by 20% and exhibits promising photo‐electrochemical performance for hydrogen generation. In addition, graphene is stable in acid and base solutions, significantly improving the operational stability of using silicon for water splitting.
This innovative architecture for hydrogen production will be instrumental in future solar energy generation, and the study was selected as the back cover of Advanced Energy Materials.
This study was supported by the Taiwan Consortium of Emergent Crystalline Materials Project (Ministry of Science and Technology) and NTU’s Center of Atomic Initiative for New Materials (Ministry of Education’s Higher Education Sprout Project).
This article is also featured in No. 75 of NTU Highlights (December, 2019).
“Water Splitting: Creation of 3D Textured Graphene/Si Schottky Junction Photocathode for Enhanced Photo-Electrochemical Efficiency and Stability,” Advanced Energy Materials, 1901022, August 7, 2019. DOI: 10.1002/aenm.201970115.