Stony Brook University Assistant Professor of Materials Science & Engineering Alexander Orlov, PhD and his team are producing hydrogen from water using sunlight and gold nanomaterials.

The university press release is claiming Orlov’s team has done the first-ever experiment of its kind demonstrating that clean energy hydrogen can be produced from water splitting by using very small metal particles that are exposed to sunlight.

Orlov’s team found that the use of gold particles smaller than one nanometer resulted in greater hydrogen production than the other co-catalysts tested.  There is a tremendous increase in the ability of these particles to facilitate hydrogen production from water using solar light. They observed a “greater than 35 times increase” in hydrogen evolution as compared to ordinary materials.

Gold Catalyst Splits Water in Sunlight. See the link below to the published paper for more information.

Professor Orlov said, “This is the first ever demonstration of the remarkable potential of very small metal nanoparticles, containing fewer than a dozen atoms, for making fuel from water.”

In order to explain these fascinating results, Professor Orlov collaborated with Brookhaven National Lab computational scientist Dr. Yan Li, who found some interesting anomalies in electronic properties of these small particles.  Professor Orlov noted that there is still a tremendous amount of work that needs be done to understand this phenomenon. “It is conceivable that we are only at the beginning of an extraordinary journey to utilize such small particles, of less than a dozen atoms in size, for clean energy production,” he said.

Orlov’s work is at the leading edge of solar hydrogen production.  Solar drives the wind, plant photosynthesis, photovoltaic, solar thermal, solar electrochemical and other descriptions.  Where Orlov’s work will go is very much out in the future.  There are ideas like solar methane production that would likely need a hydrogen source.  Small personal fuel production could develop around a hydrogen source with top offs or draw downs as a kind of personal vehicle function.

The big question would be the cost of the gold.  Its quite early in the research and no numbers are offered – so we’ll have to wait to see how the work stacks up.  For that matter the press release only offered a vague comparison that sounds really good.

Information while sketchy for now is cleared up some in the paper and the abstract “Outstanding Activity of Sub-nm Au Clusters for Photocatalytic Hydrogen Production,” published in the journal Applied Catalysis B.  Orlov has run some comparisons and has a lead on where to go for better production.

Follow that lead, Professor.  It a good fuel route with lots of potential.


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