Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors



Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

Home > Press > Discovery of an Unexpected Boost for Solar Water-Splitting Cells

Scanning electron microscope image of typical titania nanotubes for a photocatalytic cell to produce hydrogen gas from water. Nanotubes average roughly 90-100 nanometers in diameter. Follow this link for an image showing schematic of an experimental photocatlytic cell.

Credit: Menon, Northeastern University
Scanning electron microscope image of typical titania nanotubes for a photocatalytic cell to produce hydrogen gas from water. Nanotubes average roughly 90-100 nanometers in diameter. Follow this link for an image showing schematic of an experimental photocatlytic cell.

Credit: Menon, Northeastern University

Abstract:
A research team from Northeastern University and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has discovered, serendipitously, that a residue of a process used to build arrays of titania nanotubes—a residue that wasn't even noticed before this—plays an important role in improving the performance of the nanotubes in solar cells that produce hydrogen gas from water. Their recently published results* indicate that by controlling the deposition of potassium on the surface of the nanotubes, engineers can achieve significant energy savings in a promising new alternate energy system.

Discovery of an Unexpected Boost for Solar Water-Splitting Cells

Gaithersburg, MD | Posted on April 22nd, 2009

Titania (or titanium dioxide) is a versatile chemical compound best known as a white pigment. It's found in everything from paint to toothpastes and sunscreen lotions. Thirty-five years ago Akira Fujishima startled the electrochemical world by demonstrating that it also functioned as a photocatalyst, producing hydrogen gas from water, electricity and sunlight. In recent years, researchers have been exploring different ways to optimize the process and create a commercially viable technology that, essentially, transforms cheap sunlight into hydrogen, a pollution-free fuel that can be stored and shipped.

Increasing the available surface area is one way to boost a catalyst's performance, so a team at Northeastern has been studying techniques to build tightly packed arrays of titania nanotubes, which have a very high surface to volume ratio. They also were interested in how best to incorporate carbon into the nanotubes, because carbon helps titania absorb light in the visible spectrum. (Pure titania absorbs in the ultraviolet region, and much of the ultraviolet is filtered by the atmosphere.)

This brought them to the NIST X-ray spectroscopy beamline at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS)**. The NIST facility uses X-rays that can be precisely tuned to measure chemical bonds of specific elements, and is at least 10 times more sensitive than commonly available laboratory instruments, allowing researchers to detect elements at extremely low concentrations. While making measurements of the carbon atoms, the team noticed spectroscopic data indicating that the titania nanotubes had small amounts of potassium ions strongly bound to the surface, evidently left by the fabrication process, which used potassium salts. This was the first time the potassium has ever been observed on titania nanotubes; previous measurements were not sensitive enough to detect it.

The result was mildly interesting, but became much more so when the research team compared the performance of the potassium-bearing nanotubes to similar arrays deliberately prepared without potassium. The former required only about one-third the electrical energy to produce the same amount of hydrogen as an equivalent array of potassium-free nanotubes. "The result was so exciting," recalls Northeastern physicist Latika Menon, "that we got sidetracked from the carbon research." Because it has such a strong effect at nearly undetectable concentrations, Menon says, potassium probably has played an unrecognized role in many experimental water-splitting cells that use titania nanotubes, because potassium hydroxide is commonly used in the cells. By controlling it, she says, hydrogen solar cell designers could use it to optimize performance.

* C. Richter, C. Jaye, E. Panaitescu, D.A. Fischer, L.H. Lewis, R.J. Willey and L. Menon. Effect of potassium adsorption on the photochemical properties of titania nanotube arrays. J. Mater. Chem., published online as an Advanced Article, March 27, 2009. DOI: 10.1039/b822501j

** The NSLS is part of the Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Michael Baum

(301) 975-2763

Copyright © NIST

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

NREL Announces New Center Directors to lead R&D, Analysis Efforts September 30th, 2014

Yale University and Leica Microsystems Partner to Establish Microscopy Center of Excellence: Yale Welcomes Scientists to Participate in Core Facility Opening and Super- Resolution Workshops October 20 Through 31, 2014 September 30th, 2014

Speed at its limits September 30th, 2014

Research mimics brain cells to boost memory power September 30th, 2014

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

NREL Announces New Center Directors to lead R&D, Analysis Efforts September 30th, 2014

A Heartbeat Away? Hybrid "Patch" Could Replace Transplants: TAU researcher harnesses gold nanoparticles to engineer novel biocompatible cardiac patch September 30th, 2014

How things coil: Researchers discover that simulation technology designed for Hollywood can be used as a predictive tool for understanding fundamental engineering problems September 29th, 2014

UT Arlington researchers develop transparent nanoscintillators for radiation detection for medical safety and homeland security September 29th, 2014

Nanotubes/Buckyballs

Elsevier Publishes New Content on Graphene and Materials Science: Books Discuss Properties and Emerging Applications of Carbon Nanotubes, Graphene and Nanomaterials September 25th, 2014

Future flexible electronics based on carbon nanotubes: Study in Applied Physics Letters show how to improve nanotube transistor and circuit performance with fluoropolymers September 23rd, 2014

Nanotubes help healing hearts keep the beat: Rice University, Texas Children’s Hospital patch for defects enhances electrical connections between cells September 23rd, 2014

SouthWest NanoTechnologies (SWeNT) Receives NIST Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase 1 Award to Produce Greater than 99% Semiconducting Single-Wall Carbon Nanotubes September 19th, 2014

Discoveries

Research mimics brain cells to boost memory power September 30th, 2014

Ad-REIC vaccine: A magic bullet for cancer treatment September 30th, 2014

New Topical Hemostatic Agent: Neutral Self-Assembling Peptide Hydrogel September 30th, 2014

Chemical interactions between silver nanoparticles and thiols: A comparison of mercaptohexanol again September 30th, 2014

Announcements

Park Systems Announces Outsourced Analytical Services Including AFM Surface Imaging, Data Analysis and Interpretation September 30th, 2014

Ad-REIC vaccine: A magic bullet for cancer treatment September 30th, 2014

New Topical Hemostatic Agent: Neutral Self-Assembling Peptide Hydrogel September 30th, 2014

Chemical interactions between silver nanoparticles and thiols: A comparison of mercaptohexanol again September 30th, 2014

Energy

Production of Anticorrosive Chromate Nanocoatings in Iran September 27th, 2014

University of Electro-Communications research: High density quantum dots for powerful solar cells September 25th, 2014

On the Road to Artificial Photosynthesis: Berkeley Lab Study Reveals Key Catalytic Factors in Carbon Dioxide Reduction September 25th, 2014

Solar cell compound probed under pressure September 25th, 2014

Research partnerships

Research mimics brain cells to boost memory power September 30th, 2014

'Pixel' engineered electronics have growth potential: Rice, Oak Ridge, Vanderbilt, Penn scientists lead creation of atom-scale semiconducting composites September 29th, 2014

Teijin Aramid’s carbon nanotube fibers awarded with Paul Schlack prize: New generation super fibers bring wave of innovations to fiber market September 25th, 2014

Smallest-possible diamonds form ultra-thin nanothread September 25th, 2014

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







© Copyright 1999-2014 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE