Superpowered Supercrystal Can Harness Sunlight For Enhanced Solar Energy and Hydrogen Production Using Nanotech

Sandy Rivers
By Sandy Rivers
An image depicting a futuristic laboratory with scientists examining a glowing, crystalline structure.

Harnessing Sunlight with Nanotechnology

At Ludwig Maximilian University Of Munich (LMU), Professor Emiliano Cortés is revolutionizing solar energy capture. His team is using nanotechnology to create materials that concentrate solar energy more efficiently.

They’ve developed a supercrystal that has already set a world record for green hydrogen production using sunlight.

The first major step toward the elusive, green hydrogen.

For left to right: Dr. Simone Ezendam, Dr. Matías Herrán and Prof. Emiliano Cortés.

“We are working on material solutions to capture and use solar energy more efficiently,” Cortés explains. His approach differs from traditional methods, which rely on large solar panels to compensate for the diluted nature of sunlight on Earth.

The Supercrystal Breakthrough

Cortés, with Dr. Matías Herran and other collaborators, has developed a supercrystal capable of generating hydrogen from formic acid using sunlight. Cortés highlights, “The material is so outstanding, in fact, that it holds the world record for producing hydrogen using sunlight.”

These nanostructures, particularly made from gold, create a mini-magnet effect when interacting with light. Herrán details this process: “At this scale, a special phenomenon occurs… causing [the electrons] to oscillate resonantly.”

Creating Nano Hotspots for Energy Conversion & An Innovative Use of Platinum

The team discovered that arranging gold particles in a specific pattern greatly increased light absorption. “The gold nanoparticle arrays focus the incoming light extremely efficiently, yielding highly localized and strong electric fields,” Herrán explains.

Platinum nanoparticles are placed in the hotspots between gold particles. Herrán elaborates, “We can force [platinum] in hotspots to enhance this otherwise poor absorption and power chemical reactions with the light energy.”

Professor Emiliano Cortés is using nanotechnology to revolutionize solar energy capture. His research team creates materials that concentrate solar energy more efficiently by developing plasmonic nanostructures. A supercrystal that produces hydrogen from formic acid using sunlight, is not just their latest breakthrough, but now also holds the world record in its field. Source: Nano Energy Group

Record-Setting Hydrogen Production While Moving Towards Green Hydrogen

Their material has achieved a hydrogen production rate from formic acid that’s unprecedented. “With a hydrogen production rate from formic acid of 139 millimoles per hour and per gram of catalyst, the photocatalytic material currently holds the world record for H2 production with sunlight,” the team reports.

Most hydrogen today is produced from fossil fuels. Cortés and Herrán’s work represents a shift towards more sustainable methods, using sunlight and alternative feedstocks for hydrogen production.

Cortés and Herrán see vast potential in their discovery. “By combining plasmonic and catalytic metals, we are advancing the development of potent photocatalysts for industrial applications,” they state, envisioning a future where sunlight is used in various chemical conversions, like turning CO2 into useful substances.

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