October 30, 2015
University of Chicago
An inexpensive method for generating clean fuel is the modern-day equivalent of the philosopher’s stone. One compelling idea is to use solar energy to split water into its constituent hydrogen and oxygen and then harvest the hydrogen for use as fuel. But splitting water efficiently turns out to be not so easy.
Kyoung-Shin Choi is a professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and an experimentalist. Giulia Galli is Liew Family Professor of Electronic Structure and Simulations at the IME and a theorist. Working together, the two found a way to increase the efficiency with which an electrode used for splitting water absorbs solar photons while at the same time improving the flow of electrons from one electrode to another.
Simulations allowed them to understand what was happening at the atomic level. “Our study will encourage researchers in the field to develop ways to improve multiple processes using a single treatment,” said Choi. “So it’s not just about achieving higher efficiency, it’s about providing a strategy for the field.