HyperSolar, which develops of a new technology to produce renewable hydrogen using sunlight and any source of water, has announced that its artificial photosynthesis technology is now capable of producing 1.0 volt open circuit voltage for use in direct solar hydrogen production. This achievement represents a voltage increase over the previous 0.2 volt just 8 months ago, and 0.75 volt just 3 months ago.
The theoretical voltage for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen is 1.23 volts, and approximately 1.5 volts in real-world systems. But so far achieving 1.5 volts using inexpensive solar cells has eluded the world. For example, silicon solar cells are the most inexpensive and abundant, but their 0.7 volt is not enough to split water. Commercially available high voltage solar cells are unfortunately too expensive for use in hydrogen production.
“Our cutting-edge research program at the University of California Santa Barbara led by Dr. Syed Mubeen Hussaini continues to make impressive progress,” said Tim Young, CEO of HyperSolar. “The 1.0 volt milestone is very exciting in that it provides us with a clear and encouraging roadmap to reach the 1.5 volts needed for water splitting.The semi-conductor materials used are very inexpensive, which gives us confidence that a low cost system is possible. The process to make this novel solar cell is equally exciting in that it is a simple solutions-based chemistry process. It does not require conventional expensive semiconductor processes and facilities. It was literally made in a beaker.”
HyperSolar’s research is centered on developing a low-cost and submersible hydrogen production particle that can split water molecules under the sun, emulating the core functions of photosynthesis. Each particle is a complete hydrogen generator that contains a novel high voltage solar cell bonded to chemical catalysts by a proprietary encapsulation coating. A video of an early proof-of-concept prototype can be viewed at here. HyperSolar recently extended its sponsored research agreement with UCSB to further the development.
While 1.0 volt may not be commercially viable for water splitting, Hypersolar says it is viable in high value photo-catalysis application in the chemical industry, such as bromine extraction from wastewater.
Article by Antonio Pasolini, a Brazilian writer and video art curator based in London, UK. He holds a BA in journalism and an MA in film and television.