Rutgers University-New Brunswick researchers have made use of star shaped gold nanoparticles to produce hydrogen from water.
The nanoparticles coated with a semiconductor is said to be four times more efficient than current methods.
The researchers contend that this could help improve storage of solar energy and other advances boosting renewable energy use.
“Instead of using ultraviolet light, which is the standard practice, we leveraged the energy of visible and infrared light to excite electrons in gold nanoparticles,” said associate professor Laura Fabris, who led the work with another associate professor, Fuat Celik. “Excited electrons in the metal can be transferred more efficiently into the semiconductor, which catalyzes the reaction.”
The new process is based on photocatalysis, which typically means harnessing sunlight to make faster or cheaper reactions.
According to the researchers, titanium dioxide illuminated by ultraviolet light is often is used as a catalyst, but this has in the past proved to be inefficient.
The researchers have now tapped visible and infrared light that allow gold nanoparticles to absorb it more quickly and then transfer some of the electrons generated as a result of the light absorption to nearby materials like titanium dioxide.
The engineers coated gold nanoparticles with titanium dioxide and exposed the material to UV, visible, and infrared light, and studied how electrons jump from gold to the material.
This helped them find out that the electrons which trigger reactions, produced hydrogen from water over four times more efficiently than previous efforts demonstrated.
They further assert that hydrogen can be used to store solar energy and then combusted for energy when the sun is not shining.
Image and content: Ashley Pennington/Rutgers University-New Brunswick