Images of climate innovation

Fuels from water and sunlight

Researchers are developing ways to turn sunlight and water into fuels for our cars and homes. Solar fuels materials absorb the light energy and use it drive the production of hydrogen with oxygen being the only by-product, thereby overcoming one of the main barriers of solar energy - it's intermittency. Here a researcher is testing a new low-cost semiconductor developed at the University of Liverpool for hydrogen evolution.

A scientist investigates a clamp on a work bench while green light filters through

There is abundant solar energy to meet all of humanities needs but it is intermittent and the global distribution is unequal. Either long-term (months) energy storage or effective distribution networks on a global scale will need to be introduced if solar energy is to become the primary energy resource. Producing storable, high energy density chemical fuels produced using sunlight as the energy input overcomes this barrier.

Once generated the hydrogen can be transported to the site of use and its combustion or use in a fuel cell only produces water as a product. Light driven water splitting is already being tested as a way to produce transportation fuels for remote and island communities in programmes such as the EU funded SEAFUEL activity and test systems for use on domestic buildings are already underway world-wide.

Entrant: Alex Cowan , University of Liverpool/Solar Fuels Network

Copyright: Solar Fuels Network