A modular nanosystem that can achieve a solar-to-fuel conversion efficiency of 0.12%.
APPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY:
- Converting solar energy to chemical fuels for the renewable energy industry
- Efficient and cost-effective solar-to-fuel conversion
- Modular design allows affordable upgrades and mass manufacturing
Researchers at Berkeley Lab have developed an artificial photosynthesis system that can achieve a solar-to-fuel conversion efficiency of 0.12%, which is comparable to that of natural photosynthesis, under simulated sunlight.
Unlike previous technologies, the Berkeley Lab invention does not use macroscopic bulk thin-film devices or non-integrated nanoparticle dispersions for water splitting in solar-to-fuel conversions. With its fully integrated system of nanoscale photoelectrodes assembled from inorganic nanowires for direct solar water splitting, the technology is instead modeled after the photosynthesis system of a chloroplast. All components in this integrated nanosystem are individually positioned to maximize the energy conversion efficiency.
The renewable energy industry has been interested in the mass commercialization of artificial photosynthesis — the biomimetic approach to converting sunlight’s energy directly into chemical fuels — but the low conversion efficiency and high material costs of conventional approaches have not made this possible. The Berkeley Lab invention is the first demonstration of a functional, fully integrated nanosystem for a solar-driven water-splitting device. In addition to being highly efficient, the invention’s modular design will allow industry to replace specific components without the cost of a whole-system upgrade to achieve competitive performance.
DEVELOPMENT STAGE: Proven principle. Researchers are working to improve the technology’s efficiency.
STATUS: Patent pending. Available for licensing or collaborative research.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Liu, C., Tang, J., Chen, H. M., Liu, B., Yang, P., “A Fully Integrated Nanosystem of Semiconductor Nanowires for Direct Solar Water Splitting,” NanoLetters, 2013, 13(6), 2989–2992, DOI: 10.1021/nl401615t.
SEE THESE OTHER BERKELEY LAB TECHNOLOGIES IN THIS FIELD:
REFERENCE NUMBER: 2013-124