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Protecting The 'Artificial Leaf' From Corrosion With Polymer-Coated Catalysts

Posted on the 21 June 2013 by Derick Ajumni

Protecting The 'Artificial Leaf' From Corrosion With Polymer-Coated Catalysts
Solar energy production and use is quickly becoming the preferred renewable energy choice for the scientific research community. The only set back to this
technology is the continues production of electricity which as we know is conditional on the presence of sunlight. So storing some of this excess energy when produced is absolutely necessary to maintain its prefer-ability.
Scientists are researching the best scenarios to use hydrogen to store this excess energy. This is because hydrogen gas stores chemical energy. The theory is to use the solar energy to electronically split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen by using two electrodes that are coated with suitable catalysts and between which a minimum 1.23 volt tension is generated. This produced hydrogen is then used as a storage fuel.
Protecting The 'Artificial Leaf' From Corrosion With Polymer-Coated CatalystsResearchers at the Helmholtz Centre Berlin for Materials and Energy (HZB) Institute for Solar Fuels, have invented an 'artificial leaf' or a superstrate solar cell that obtains hydrogen from water with the help of suitable catalysts. The technology mimics the process of photosynthesis, but they face a problem as the solar cell rapidly decomposes (corrodes) when in contact with aqueous electrolyte solutions. To solve this, a Ph.D. student Diana Stellmach embedded catalysts in an electrically conducting polymer before mounting them onto the solar cell's two contact surfaces. This seals the cell's sensitive contacts preventing corrosion.
This innovative research is important because 'on sunny days, excess electricity could yield hydrogen, which would be available for fuel or to generate electricity at a later point like at night or on days that are overcast' (ref).
Original article: phys dot org
Images: top - science for kids, bottom - conservation magazine

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