Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

CleanTechnica

Clean Power

Stanford Designs Underwater Solar Cells That Convert Greenhouse Gases Into Fuel

Imagine a process where underwater solar cells could one day play a key role in fighting climate change. Stanford engineers did just that. They have provided design principles to build energy efficient, corrosion-protected solar cells. The impacts of this research are far-reaching for the solar industry and the battle against climate change.

Importantly, writes Stanford reporter Ramin Skibba, this process might be a huge leap in remaking greenhouse gases into something good.

“Instead of pumping electricity into the grid, though, the power these cells produce would be used to spur chemical reactions to convert captured greenhouse gases into fuel. 

“This new work, published in Nature Materials, was led by Stanford materials scientist Paul McIntyre, whose lab has been a pioneer in an emerging field known as artificial photosynthesis.”

Stanford 15871-watersolarbig_newsUsing the sun’s energy to combine water and carbon dioxide to create chemical products is a process known as artificial photosynthesis.

Corrosion-resistant underwater solar cells and potential uses

In plants, photosynthesis uses the sun’s energy to combine water and carbon dioxide to create sugar, the fuel on which they live. Artificial photosynthesis applied in underwater solar cells uses the energy from specialized solar cells that combines water with captured carbon dioxide to produce industrial fuels.

Artificial photosynthesis has faced two challenges: ordinary silicon solar cells corrode under water and corrosion-proof solar cells have been unable to capture enough sunlight under water to drive the chemical reactions.

But in 2011, McIntyre’s lab developed solar cells resistant to corrosion in water. In the new paper, McIntyre and doctoral student Andrew Scheuermann show how to increase the power of corrosion-resistant solar cells, setting a record for solar energy output under water.

“The results reported in this paper are significant because they represent not only an advance in performance of silicon artificial photosynthesis cells, but also establish the design rules needed to achieve high performance for a wide array of different semiconductors, corrosion protection layers and catalysts,” McIntyre has said.

On a global scale, this process might play a key role in fighting climate change. The idea is to funnel greenhouse gases from smokestacks or the atmosphere into giant, transparent chemical tanks. Solar cells inside the tanks would spur chemical reactions to turn the greenhouse gases and water into what are sometimes called “solar fuels.”

“We have now achieved the corrosion resistance and the energy output required for viable systems,” Scheuermann said. “Within five years, we will have complete artificial photosynthesis systems that convert greenhouse gases into fuel.”

Image via Stanford News

 
Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.
 
 

Advertisement
 
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Written By

is a writer, producer, and director. Meyers was editor and site director of Green Building Elements, a contributing writer for CleanTechnica, and is founder of Green Streets MediaTrain, a communications connection and eLearning hub. As an independent producer, he's been involved in the development, production and distribution of television and distance learning programs for both the education industry and corporate sector. He also is an avid gardener and loves sustainable innovation.

Comments

#1 most loved electric vehicle, solar energy, and battery news & analysis site in the world.

 

Support our work today!

Power CleanTechnica: $3/Month

Tesla News Solar News EV News Data Reports

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Tesla News

EV Reviews

Home Efficiency

You May Also Like

Clean Power

Scientists at NREL seem to have Discovered a Way To Improve Perovskite Efficiency & Stability, making for better solar cells.

Batteries

Universities are suppose to be the homes of our best and brightest. (Don’t look here.) They are supposed to be about the long-term view....

Autonomous Vehicles

In a new video by Dr. Know It All on YouTube, he explains that he wanted to know whether or not Tesla cars could...

Batteries

There's a new approach that is boosting the efficiency of lithium-ion batteries that also puts out fires — making the batteries fireproof. The new...

Copyright © 2021 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.