Linköping University Researchers Showcases Method to Make Renewable Energy from Water
A team of researchers from Linköping University (LiU) in Sweden has developed a new material design to make renewable energy from water.
The novel nanoporous cubic silicon carbide material showcases promising properties to capture solar energy and split water for hydrogen gas production.
The study was led by Jianwu Sun, senior lecturer in the Department of Physics, Chemistry, and Biology (institutionen för fysik, kemi och biologi) at LiU, and was published in ACS NANO.
The new cubic silicon carbide in water. Image used courtesy of Thor Balkhed/LiU.
Linköping IFM: an Overview
Alongside Jianwu Sun, the new paper was co-written by Jing-Xin Jian, Valdas Jokubavicius, Mikael Syväjärvi, and Rositsa Yakimova, all researchers from LiU’s institutionen för fysik, kemi och biologi (IFM).
IFM has been operating for over five decades, reporting substantial growth since its establishment.
Today, the institute counts 420 employees, including 45 full professors and roughly 130 graduate students.
IFM is currently organized into five separated scientific areas: Applied Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Material Physics, and Theory and Modelling.
The institute receives a large part of its funding from the Swedish Research Council, VR, The Foundation of Strategic Research, SSF, VINNOVA, Formas, and The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.
Greener and More Energy Efficient
Current methods of experimenting with novel forms of renewable energy come from using hydrogen gas produced from water and sunlight.
This is because hydrogen has an energy density three times higher than petrol, and can be used to generate electricity using commercially available fuel cells.
Furthermore, the energy produced by hydrogen gas only generates pure water, while producing energy via fossil fuels creates polluting carbon dioxide emissions.
Jianwu Sun. Image used courtesy of Thor Balkhed/LiU.
“New sustainable energy systems are needed to meet global energy and environmental challenges, such as increasing carbon dioxide emissions and climate change,” Sun said in the study’s introduction.
To channel the potential of hydrogen-produced clean energy, Sun’s team has developed a new material dubbed nanoporous cubic silicon carbide (3C-SiC), which showcases promising properties to capture solar energy and split water for hydrogen gas production.
Nanoporous Cubic Silicon Carbide
In order to split water using the energy in sunlight to produce hydrogen gas, however, the researchers had to create a particular type of material.
Such material should be able to both absorb the sun’s radiation to create charges that can be separated and have enough energy to split the water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen gases.
After various experiments, the LiU researchers investigated 3C-SiC and produced a variant with many, extremely minute pores, which can efficiently trap and harvest ultraviolet and most of the visible sunlight.
In addition, the porous structure of the material also promotes the separation of charges with the required energy, while the small pores give a larger active surface area.
This not only enhances charge transfer and increases the number of reaction sites, but also boosts the water splitting efficiency further.
“The main result we have shown is that nanoporous cubic silicon carbide has a higher charge-separation efficiency, which makes the splitting of water to hydrogen much better than when using planar silicon carbide,” Sun added.
For more information about the new study, you can follow this link here.