‘Water and sunlight could create low carbon fuels’

Research into solar fuels has taken a major step forward, with scientists nearly doubling the number of materials that could be used in the process. Some believe that by using […]

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By Jonny Bairstow

Research into solar fuels has taken a major step forward, with scientists nearly doubling the number of materials that could be used in the process.

Some believe that by using just sunlight, Carbon Dioxide and water, a clean liquid fuel could be created to power cars, airplanes and homes without contributing to climate change.

Researchers are exploring a range of possible target methods for making solar fuels but one possibility is to produce hydrogen by splitting water.

Scientists at the Department of Energy’s (DoE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have made significant progress in the last two years, finding 12 new promising ‘photoanode’ materials.

Over the past four decades, only 16 of these materials, which could be used to split water using only visible light as an energy source, have been discovered.

Berkeley Lab’s Jeffrey Neaton, Director of the Molecular Foundry, said: “What is particularly significant about this study, which combines experiment and theory, is that in addition to identifying several new compounds for solar fuel applications, we were also able to learn something new about the underlying electronic structure of the materials themselves.”

New solar panels could use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into hydrocarbon fuel.