Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tyndall team to unlock energy in water by using ALD and nanostructuring techniques

As reported today: A research team spanning the Atlantic Ocean is trying to unlock the energy potential in water under a new €1 million project that began last year.
Comprising scientists at the Tyndall National Institute in Ireland and their partners in the US and Northern Ireland, the team is aiming to replicate photosynthetic energy generation using a combination of semiconductors and sunlight.
Dubbed “RENEW” (short for Research into Emerging Nanostructured Electrodes for the Splitting of Water), the effort is led by Tyndall’s Martyn Pemble and Paul Hurley, along with Paul McIntyre at Stanford University in California and Andrew Mills at Queen’s University Belfast.
They are the latest research team to try to imitate the way that leaves are able to generate energy by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen.
Pemble said: “The main focus for the project is a tiny, stacked arrangement of [semiconductor] materials that is used for some transistors in the electronics industry. Previous work has shown that these structures can act as basic ‘artificial leaves’ for splitting water and the aim now is to make them more efficient.”
The project is part-funded – to the tune of $407,000 - by the US National Science Foundation (NSF). According to the NSF's project abstract, the RENEW team will look to replace expensive metals such as iridium or ruthenium used in photocatalysts with more Earth-abundant materials, in both single-junction and tandem photoelectrochemical cells.
They will also look to minimize the amount of the expensive material needed in the catalysts by using atomic layer deposition and nanostructuring techniques.