March 04 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy Year: General Rating: 2
Titanium 'Nanostructures' - Electrons & Hydrogen
Boston College researchers have demonstrated a novel titanium nanostructure with expanded surface area for greater efficiency in the transport of electrons that could be tapped to split water to store solar energy in the form of hydrogen.
The team led by Professor Dunwei Wang will continue to improve overall efficiencies, but there is no doubt that they have advanced the 'relatively new science of water splitting' using semiconductor catalysts to separate and store hydrogen and oxygen.
"The current challenge in splitting water involves how best to capture photons within the semiconductor material and then grab and transport them to produce hydrogen," Wang says. "For practical water splitting, you want to generate oxygen and hydrogen separately. For this, good electrical conductivity is of great importance because it allows you to collect electrons in the oxygen-generation region and transport them to the hydrogen-generation chamber for hydrogen production."
Why Nanoscale Matters: Remembering this is a Transition, not a Crisis
I think it is important to recognize that we have not run out of options in creating and storing clean forms of energy. It's just that the old set of solutions cannot get us to to where we need to go!
We don't need to go to the mall. Trying to appeal to consumers to 'buy green' will not get us there. It is a superficial strategy that falls flat against global realities of expanding demand for energy.
We don't need to go to oil and coal fields. Continuing to extract energy from the Earth won't get us there. We are seeing limits to growth with conventional oil production, leaving only carbon heavy alternatives.
Where we need to go is down to the molecular ('nano') level of energy interactions, and then reimagine new ways to capture and store energy based on a new understanding of what is really happening!
The paper can be viewed online at the Journal of the American Chemical website at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ja808426h.
A net-like titanium nanostructure, shown here under a transmission electron micrograph, grown by Boston College chemists from a titanium disilicide core for improved conductivity and a coating of titanium dioxide, required for its catalytic prowess. The material shows promise for use in water splitting, the process of chemically separating oxygen and hydrogen gasses to produce clean energy.
Credit/Permission granted by: Journal of the American Chemical Society