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South Korean scientists have developed a photocatalyst that can significantly
increase the efficiency of producing hydrogen from sunlight, the government said
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said a research team led by Lee Jae-sung, a professor of chemical engineering from the Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), devised a method to make large quantities of hydrogen.
Hydrogen is a key natural resource and has the potential to be used in next generation power cells that may effectively replace fossils fuel. The drawback to this clean alternative fuel is that the cost and energy needed to make usable hydrogen offsets any benefits at present.
Existing experimental photocatalyst processes use bismuth vanadate for electrodes that absorb natural sunlight. This process releases electrons that react with water to produce hydrogen.
The use of bismuth vanadate alone, however, produces low hydrogen conversion rates so POSTECH researchers added tungsten oxide to the production process and vastly raised efficiency.
"The heterojunction photocatalyst electrode made by this merging has been tested to boost hydrogen production efficiency by 74 percent," the research team claimed.
It did not go into details on the cost of the process compared to current production methods, but stressed it has commercial potential.
The science ministry, which supported the research, said efforts are underway to start commercially viable hydrogen production using this technology by around 2020.
The latest findings have been published by the prestigious Advanced Materials journal and by Britain's Energy and Environment Science journal.