Our research focuses on the development of new inorganic materials for solar water splitting, composed of abundant elements, and synthesized with low energy intensity methods. The end goal is to enable the fabrication of devices that are cheap enough to make solar hydrogen cost competitive with fossil fuels.

Lay summary

The amount of solar power striking the Earth’s surface at any instant is >5000 times our present day energy needs. Although the growing population and an overall increase in the standard of living will in a similar fashion significantly increase our energy consumption, the extra power needed can be easily met with solar energy. Photoelectrochemical water splitting is a solar technology that taps this abundant resource and stores the energy in hydrogen fuel. The storage of solar energy in chemical bonds is analagous to natural photosynthesis, and just as plants can carry out their “dark reactions,” the energy that is stored in the hydrogen is available to us at any time, day or night.

The goal of our research is to prepare efficient materials as cheaply as possible, by using abundant elements and low energy intensity fabrication techniques, such that the cost of the hydrogen produced can be competitive with hydrogen from other sources, such as fossil fuels. The project encompasses several areas that can still benefit from fundamental research, such as novel combinations of inorganic photoabsorber materials for higher efficiency, general methods for improving the efficiency of oxides, and water splitting catalysis.