Scientists concentrate on efficient hydrogen production

Researchers from the Laboratory of Renewable Energy Science and Engineering at Switzerland’s Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne have developed a device which they say could “provide a pathway for device scalability aimed towards the large scale deployment of photo-electrochemical hydrogen production”.

Scientists at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) have developed a device to directly convert sunlight into hydrogen. By integrating a solar concentrator and smart thermal management system, the Swiss team says its device can achieve a stable 17% solar power-to-hydrogen conversion rate.

The device is described in the paper A thermally synergistic photo-electrochemical hydrogen generator operating under concentrated solar irradiation, published in Nature Energy.

One of the device’s key innovations is its use of a solar concentrator, which can boost irradiation onto it by up 474 kW/m², accompanied by a thermal management system that keeps the solar cell cool, enabling it to operate more efficiently, and transfers heat generated elsewhere in the system where it is needed.

“In our device, a thin layer of water runs over a solar cell to cool it,” said paper co-author Saurabh Tembhurne. “At the same time, the heat extracted by the water is transferred to catalysts, thereby improving the chemical reaction and increasing the hydrogen production rate.”

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