Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Nanotrees harvest the sun's energy to turn water into hydrogen fuel: Researchers focused on artificial photosynthesis

Schematic shows the light trapping effect in nanowire arrays. Photons on are bounced between single nanowires and eventually absorbed by them (R). By harvesting more sun light using the vertical nanotree structure, Wang’s team has developed a way to produce more hydrogen fuel efficiently compared to planar counterparts where they are reflected off the surface (L).

Credit: Image Credit: Wang Research Group, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. Originally published in the journal Nanoscale, reproduced by permission of The Royal Society of Chemistry.
Schematic shows the light trapping effect in nanowire arrays. Photons on are bounced between single nanowires and eventually absorbed by them (R). By harvesting more sun light using the vertical nanotree structure, Wang’s team has developed a way to produce more hydrogen fuel efficiently compared to planar counterparts where they are reflected off the surface (L).

Credit: Image Credit: Wang Research Group, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. Originally published in the journal Nanoscale, reproduced by permission of The Royal Society of Chemistry.

Abstract:
University of California, San Diego electrical engineers are building a forest of tiny nanowire trees in order to cleanly capture solar energy without using fossil fuels and harvest it for hydrogen fuel generation. Reporting in the journal Nanoscale, the team said nanowires, which are made from abundant natural materials like silicon and zinc oxide, also offer a cheap way to deliver hydrogen fuel on a mass scale.

Nanotrees harvest the sun's energy to turn water into hydrogen fuel: Researchers focused on artificial photosynthesis

San Diego, CA | Posted on March 8th, 2012

"This is a clean way to generate clean fuel," said Deli Wang, professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

The trees' vertical structure and branches are keys to capturing the maximum amount of solar energy, according to Wang. That's because the vertical structure of trees grabs and adsorbs light while flat surfaces simply reflect it, Wang said, adding that it is also similar to retinal photoreceptor cells in the human eye. In images of Earth from space, light reflects off of flat surfaces such as the ocean or deserts, while forests appear darker.

Wang's team has mimicked this structure in their "3D branched nanowire array" which uses a process called photoelectrochemical water-splitting to produce hydrogen gas. Water splitting refers to the process of separating water into oxygen and hydrogen in order to extract hydrogen gas to be used as fuel. This process uses clean energy with no green-house gas byproduct. By comparison, the current conventional way of producing hydrogen relies on electricity from fossil fuels.

"Hydrogen is considered to be clean fuel compared to fossil fuel because there is no carbon emission, but the hydrogen currently used is not generated cleanly," said Ke Sun, a PhD student in electrical engineering who led the project.

By harvesting more sun light using the vertical nanotree structure, Wang's team has developed a way to produce more hydrogen fuel efficiently compared to planar counterparts. Wang is also affiliated with the California Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technology and the Materials Science and Engineering Program at UC San Diego.

The vertical branch structure also maximizes hydrogen gas output, said Sun. For example, on the flat wide surface of a pot of boiling water, bubbles must become large to come to the surface. In the nanotree structure, very small gas bubbles of hydrogen can be extracted much faster. "Moreover, with this structure, we have enhanced, by at least 400,000 times, the surface area for chemical reactions," said Sun.

In the long run, what Wang's team is aiming for is even bigger: artificial photosynthesis. In photosynthesis, as plants absorb sunlight they also collect carbon dioxide (CO2) and water from the atmosphere to create carbohydrates to fuel their own growth. Wang's team hopes to mimic this process to also capture CO2 from the atmosphere, reducing carbon emissions, and convert it into hydrocarbon fuel.

"We are trying to mimic what the plant does to convert sunlight to energy," said Sun. "We are hoping in the near future our 'nanotree' structure can eventually be part of an efficient device that functions like a real tree for photosynthesis."

The team is also studying alternatives to zinc oxide, which absorbs the sun's ultraviolet light, but has stability issues that affect the lifetime usage of the nanotree structure. Students with the Wang Research Group will be presenting this research on April 12, 2012, at Research Expo, the annual research and networking event of the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering. Register for Research Expo.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Catherine Hockmuth

858-822-1359

Copyright © University of California - San Diego

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

GLOBALFOUNDRIES Announces Availability of 45nm RF SOI to Advance 5G Mobile Communications: Optimized RF features deliver high-performance solutions for mmWave beam forming applications in 5G smartphones and base stations February 22nd, 2017

EmTech Asia breaks new barriers with potential applications of space exploration with NASA and MIT February 22nd, 2017

JPK selects compact tensile stage from Deben for their NanoWizard® AFM platform to broaden capabilities for materials characterisation February 22nd, 2017

Molecular phenomenon discovered by advanced NMR facility: Cutting edge technology has shown a molecule self-assembling into different forms when passing between solution state to solid state, and back again - a curious phenomenon in science - says research by the University of Wa February 22nd, 2017

Discoveries

Molecular phenomenon discovered by advanced NMR facility: Cutting edge technology has shown a molecule self-assembling into different forms when passing between solution state to solid state, and back again - a curious phenomenon in science - says research by the University of Wa February 22nd, 2017

Tiny nanoclusters could solve big problems for lithium-ion batteries February 21st, 2017

Oxford Instruments announces Dr Brad Ramshaw of Cornell University, as winner of the 2017 Lee Osheroff Richardson Science Prize February 20th, 2017

Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms: In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport February 20th, 2017

Announcements

GLOBALFOUNDRIES Announces Availability of 45nm RF SOI to Advance 5G Mobile Communications: Optimized RF features deliver high-performance solutions for mmWave beam forming applications in 5G smartphones and base stations February 22nd, 2017

EmTech Asia breaks new barriers with potential applications of space exploration with NASA and MIT February 22nd, 2017

JPK selects compact tensile stage from Deben for their NanoWizard® AFM platform to broaden capabilities for materials characterisation February 22nd, 2017

Molecular phenomenon discovered by advanced NMR facility: Cutting edge technology has shown a molecule self-assembling into different forms when passing between solution state to solid state, and back again - a curious phenomenon in science - says research by the University of Wa February 22nd, 2017

Energy

Strem Chemicals and Dotz Nano Ltd. Sign Distribution Agreement for Graphene Quantum Dots Collaboration February 21st, 2017

'Lossless' metamaterial could boost efficiency of lasers and other light-based devices February 20th, 2017

In-cell molecular sieve from protein crystal February 14th, 2017

NREL research pinpoints promise of polycrystalline perovskites February 8th, 2017

Events/Classes

EmTech Asia breaks new barriers with potential applications of space exploration with NASA and MIT February 22nd, 2017

Oxford Instruments announces Dr Brad Ramshaw of Cornell University, as winner of the 2017 Lee Osheroff Richardson Science Prize February 20th, 2017

Particles from outer space are wreaking low-grade havoc on personal electronics February 19th, 2017

National Space Society's Space Settlement Summit Draws Industry Leaders February 4th, 2017

Fuel Cells

Scientists boost catalytic activity for key chemical reaction in fuel cells: New platinum-based catalysts with tensile surface strain could improve fuel cell efficiency December 19th, 2016

It's basic: Alternative fuel cell technology reduces cost: Study sets performance targets for metal-free fuel cell membrane December 13th, 2016

Keeping electric car design on the right road: A closer look at the life-cycle impacts of lithium-ion batteries and proton exchange membrane fuel cells December 9th, 2016

Water vapor sets some oxides aflutter: Newly discovered phenomenon could affect materials in batteries and water-splitting devices October 3rd, 2016

Solar/Photovoltaic

Strem Chemicals and Dotz Nano Ltd. Sign Distribution Agreement for Graphene Quantum Dots Collaboration February 21st, 2017

'Lossless' metamaterial could boost efficiency of lasers and other light-based devices February 20th, 2017

Material can turn sunlight, heat and movement into electricity -- all at once: Extracting energy from multiple sources could help power wearable technology February 9th, 2017

NREL research pinpoints promise of polycrystalline perovskites February 8th, 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