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New Molecule Can Harvest Energy From Entire Visible Spectrum of Light—And Then Turn It into Hydrogen Fuel

January 26, 2020 by 

Good News Network, Jan 22, 2020

Scientists for the first time have developed a single molecule that can absorb energy from the entire visible spectrum of light, meaning it can harness over 50% more solar energy than current solar cells can.

Additionally, it can also act as a catalyst to transform that solar energy into hydrogen—a clean alternative to fuel for things like gas-powered vehicles.

The finding, which was published this week in Nature Chemistry, could help humans transition away from fossil fuels and toward energy sources that do not contribute to climate change.

The research team was led by Claudia Turro, a chemistry professor and director of The Ohio State University Center for Chemical and Biophysical Dynamics.

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“The whole idea is that we can use photons from the sun and transform it into hydrogen. To put it simply, we are saving the energy from sunlight and storing it into chemical bonds so it can be used at a later time,” Turro said.

Photons are elemental particles of sunlight that contain energy. The researchers showed, for the first time, that it is possible to collect energy from the entire visible spectrum of sunlight—including low-energy infrared, a part of the solar spectrum that previously had been difficult to collect—and transform it, quickly and efficiently, into hydrogen. Hydrogen is a clean fuel, meaning it doesn’t produce carbon or carbon dioxide as a byproduct of its use.

“What makes it work is that the system is able to put the molecule into an excited state, where it absorbs the photon and is able to store two electrons to make hydrogen,” Turro said. “This storing of two electrons in a single molecule derived from two photons, and using them together to make hydrogen, is unprecedented.”

Turning energy from the sun into, say, fuel for a car, first requires a mechanism to collect the energy. That energy then has to be converted into a fuel. The conversion requires something called a catalyst—a thing that speeds up a chemical reaction, allowing the conversion from solar energy to usable energy like hydrogen.

Most previous attempts to collect solar energy and turn it into hydrogen have focused on the higher-energy wavelengths of sunlight—think ultraviolet rays, for example.

Previous attempts also have relied on catalysts that are built from two or more molecules, which exchange electrons—energy—as they make fuel from solar power. But energy is lost in the exchange, making those multi-molecule systems less efficient.

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The few attempts that relied on a single-molecule catalyst were also inefficient, Turro said, in part because they did not collect energy from the full visible spectrum of sunlight, and in part because the catalysts themselves degraded quickly.

Turro’s research team figured out how to make a catalyst out of just one molecule—a form of the element rhodium—which means less energy is lost, she said. Furthermore, they figured out how to collect energy from infrared to ultraviolent—the entire visible spectrum. The system this research team designed is nearly 25 times more efficient with low-energy near-infrared light than previous single-molecule systems operative with ultraviolet photons, according to the study.

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In the study, the researchers used LEDs to shine light onto acid solutions containing the active molecule. When they did, they found that hydrogen was produced.

Before the research team’s finding can be put into real-world applications, Turro said, there is still much work to be done. Rhodium is a rare metal and producing catalysts from rhodium is expensive. The team is working on improving this molecule to produce hydrogen over a longer period of time and is working on building the catalyst out of less expensive materials.

Reprinted from Ohio State University

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Comment by amparo alvarez on February 2, 2020 at 11:15pm

I hope it is true...Because when they want to introduce something new so many times they had lied in the past about the safety issues of it...Thank you for the information Alan...

Comment by Alan on February 2, 2020 at 10:44pm

There is a NEW Version of Nuclear Energy discovered that has NO BAD to it, I could use this whole site to try to explain it to you, its using Cold Fusion which has NO bad side effects and puts out 10 times the Energy of the old one, it has zero Radiation harmful to people and living organisms. It's what the Airforce with our Navy are now beginning to use on their Underwater Sub's & Aircraft vessels, even our Power Plant Manufacturers are now in the process of looking into beginning the change-over, its CLEAN ENERGY with 10 times the output of the one used now, its based on Extraterrestrial power and has NO dangerous elements.     

Comment by amparo alvarez on January 31, 2020 at 9:53pm

With Love Dr. SohiniBen...Thank you for your Presence...Blessings to you and yours...

Comment by Dr. SohiniBen Shukla on January 31, 2020 at 11:40am

Dear amparo,

Thanks for this special message !

Good to know !


Comment by amparo alvarez on January 29, 2020 at 10:16pm

Yes it is very promising...Sometimes I have conversations with people that are blinded by nuclear energy being the best and I keep telling them of the 15 plus cases of disasters that happened around the world...Well they keep erasing my answers and being in denial...I don't back down about the fact that solar is always better and I am glad they are improving it...I cannot wait to the day we don't use fossil fuels...Every time they extract petroleum from Mother Earth it hurts her and it leaves an empty spot where the oil was previously ...... 

Comment by Alan on January 29, 2020 at 3:16am

Very promissing stepping stone to other forms of Energy desperately needed.  

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