Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > A water splitter with a double role: Sunlight and a familiar plastic make it possible to produce hydrogen from water

Fig.: The carbon nitride ensures that hydrogen is formed when water is irradiated with sunlight.

Image: Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces
Fig.: The carbon nitride ensures that hydrogen is formed when water is irradiated with sunlight.

Image: Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces

Abstract:
There is a lot of hope invested in hydrogen, but it also presents some problems. It is energy-rich, clean and, as a constituent of water, of almost unlimited availability. However, so far it has been difficult to access it. Scientists at the Max Planck In-stitute of Colloids and Interfaces have now found a simple, low-cost way to produce hydrogen. They extract this energy source from water by irradiating it with sunlight and using a carbon nitride as an inexpensive photo catalyst. Up to now this reaction has required organometal compounds and inorganic semiconductors combined with expensive precious metals, such as platinum. (Nature Materials, January 2009)

A water splitter with a double role: Sunlight and a familiar plastic make it possible to produce hydrogen from water

Munich, Germany | Posted on March 12th, 2009

Hydrogen is seen as the energy source of the future. There is around three times as much energy in a kilogramme of hydrogen as in a kilogramme of crude oil. In ad-dition, extracting energy from hydrogen in fuel cells, for example, creates no pol-lutants, only water. However, hydrogen is only present on the Earth in compounds such as water. Hydrogen must be in its pure form to create energy, and it must be produced with regenerative energy sources such as sunlight.

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces have succeeded in taking a step in this direction with, surprisingly, one of the oldest polymers known to chemists. They used a carbon nitride, manufactured for the first time by Justus Liebig in 1834 and which he called "melon", to create hydrogen from water with the aid of sunlight. "The special thing about carbon nitride is that it is stable in water, even under extremely acidic or alkali conditions. Apart from that, it is very easy and inexpensive to produce," says Xinchen Wang, whose research group carried out the experiments in collaboration with the University of Tokyo and Fuzhou University in China.

Carbon nitride uses sunlight to extract hydrogen from water. A substance that chemists call a sacrificial reagent absorbs the oxygen from the water. The clever trick here is that the chemists in Potsdam did not need to use a precious metal like platinum. The traditional processes require precious metals, in addition to a semiconductor acting as an aerial for the sunlight, to catalyse the production of hydrogen. The carbon nitride does both jobs at the same time and furthermore acts as a particularly stable organic semiconductor that is much easier to produce than the inorganic materials normally used.

However, only four micromoles of hydrogen per hour bubbled up out of the re-searchers' reaction vessel. "Our yield is therefore not as high as that achieved with the established methods," says Xinchen Wang. "But we have shown that it is, in principle, possible to manufacture hydrogen with just a single organic substance as an additive." When the researchers added the normal quantities of platinum as a catalyst, the yield increased substantially - by a factor of seven. This means that there is not much more benefit compared to the existing methods, as they work with similar quantities of precious metals as catalysts. Wang and his colleagues are therefore trying to make the carbon nitride more efficient by increasing its active surface area.

"It would be ideal for technical applications if we could split water into hydrogen and elementary oxygen in one step," says Wang. Then chemists would not need a sacrificial reagent to absorb the oxygen. This means, however, that they would have to oxidise the oxygen, in the same way as plants can when they photosynthesise. The researchers' calculations have shown that this should also be possible with carbon nitride as the only additive. In experiments, though, they have needed an additional catalyst.

Wang's scientists are now working on a configuration to combine the production of hydrogen and oxygen. If they are successful, the process of water splitting will be perfect and hydrogen will be a step closer to fulfilling its role as an important source of energy.

[NV/PH]

Original work:

Xinchen Wang, Kazuhiko Maeda, Arne Thomas, Kazuhiro Takanabe, Gang Xin, Johan M. Carlsson, Kazunari Domen, Markus Antonietti
A metal-free, polymeric photo catalyst for hydrogen production from water under visible light
Nature Materials, 2009, 8, 76-80

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Dr. Xinchen Wang
Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, Potsdam-Golm
Tel.: +49 331 567-9515
Fax: +49 331 567-9502


Katja Schulze (Press and Publicity)
Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, Potsdam-Golm
Tel.: +49 331 567-9203
Fax: +49 331 567-9202

Copyright © Max Planck Society

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Heating quantum matter: A novel view on topology: Physicists demonstrate how heating up a quantum system can be used as a universal probe for exotic states of matter August 22nd, 2017

A Tougher Tooth: A new dental restoration composite developed by UCSB scientists proves more durable than the conventional material August 22nd, 2017

Nagoya physicists resolve long-standing mystery of structure-less transition: Nagoya University-led team of physicists use a synchrotron radiation X-ray source to probe a so-called 'structure-less' transition and develop a new understanding of molecular conductors August 21st, 2017

Tokai University research: Nanomaterial wrap for improved tissue imaging August 21st, 2017

Discoveries

Heating quantum matter: A novel view on topology: Physicists demonstrate how heating up a quantum system can be used as a universal probe for exotic states of matter August 22nd, 2017

A Tougher Tooth: A new dental restoration composite developed by UCSB scientists proves more durable than the conventional material August 22nd, 2017

Nagoya physicists resolve long-standing mystery of structure-less transition: Nagoya University-led team of physicists use a synchrotron radiation X-ray source to probe a so-called 'structure-less' transition and develop a new understanding of molecular conductors August 21st, 2017

Tokai University research: Nanomaterial wrap for improved tissue imaging August 21st, 2017

Announcements

Heating quantum matter: A novel view on topology: Physicists demonstrate how heating up a quantum system can be used as a universal probe for exotic states of matter August 22nd, 2017

A Tougher Tooth: A new dental restoration composite developed by UCSB scientists proves more durable than the conventional material August 22nd, 2017

Nagoya physicists resolve long-standing mystery of structure-less transition: Nagoya University-led team of physicists use a synchrotron radiation X-ray source to probe a so-called 'structure-less' transition and develop a new understanding of molecular conductors August 21st, 2017

Tokai University research: Nanomaterial wrap for improved tissue imaging August 21st, 2017

Energy

The power of perovskite: OIST researchers improve perovskite-based technology in the entire energy cycle, from solar cells harnessing power to LED diodes to light the screens of future electronic devices and other lighting applications August 18th, 2017

Freeze-dried foam soaks up carbon dioxide: Rice University scientists lead effort to make novel 3-D material August 16th, 2017

Two Scientists Receive Grants to Develop New Materials: Chad Mirkin and Monica Olvera de la Cruz recognized by Sherman Fairchild Foundation August 16th, 2017

Fewer defects from a 2-D approach August 15th, 2017

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project