One of the many reasons that solar energy has not been as widely adopted as many of us would have hoped is due to a technical limitation in the materials used; simply put, by virtue of being light-absorbing, they’re not as durable as would be necessary to ensure widespread adoption of solar energy as an alternative.
However, a new research project has addressed these issues by synthesising two inorganic nanocrystals, each of which is more durable than their organic counterparts. When exposed to light, the two nanocrystals produce hydrogen gas or an electric charge.
“The main advantage of this technique is that it allows for direct, all inorganic coupling of the light absorber and the catalyst,” says the leading author Dr. Mikhail Zamkov of Bowling Green State University.
The article, published in the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE), is a video that can be viewed by anyone with a mind to learn, found here.
As shown in the image above, the first nanocrystal is rod-shaped, which allows for the charge separation necessary to produce hydrogen gas, and the second is composed of stacked layers and generates electricity. By being nanocrystals and, subsequently, inorganic, they are easier to recharge and less sensitive to heat than their organic counterparts.
“We have established a new method for making photocatalytic and photovoltaic materials. This is important primarily as a new strategy for making photovoltaic films that are 100% inorganic, thus producing a more stable solar panel. It is a design that you could reach marketability,” Dr. Zamkov says.
“It is important to have these steps documented in a video format, as the synthesis of the photocatalytic nanocrystals and the photovoltaic cells are long procedures with detailed steps. It makes our technique more visible and accessible.”