Image credit: (left) Jack Davis (right) Justin Bui / Columbia Engineering

Researchers from the Solar Fuels Engineering lab of Columbia University’s Dr Daniel Esposito have developed a unique method to convert solar energy into hydrogen using using a unique single-sided mesh electrode and the natural movement of the ocean.

This futuristic approach challenges key assumptions about the design of electrolysis systems by suggesting it can be done without traditional dual sided electrodes or pumps.  Instead the system uses single sided platinum coating on a titanium mesh and buoyancy-induced separation of gases.


Source: Columbia UniversityIEEE; IOM3


From the team’s report via Science Direct:

These asymmetric electrodes promote the evolution of gaseous H2 and O2products on the outer surfaces of the electrodes, followed by buoyancy-driven separation of the detached bubbles into separate overhead collection chambers. The successful demonstration of this concept was verified with high-speed video and analysis of product gas composition with gas chromatography. While the device based on asymmetric electrodes achieved product cross-over rates as low as 1%, a control device based on mesh electrodes that were coated on both sides with catalyst had cross-over rates typically exceeding 7%. The asymmetric electrode configuration was then incorporated into a standalone, floating PV-electrolyzer and shown to achieve a solar-to-hydrogen efficiency of 5.3% for 1 sun illumination intensity. The simplicity of this membraneless prototype, as characterized by the lack of a membrane, scaffolding, or actively pumped electrolyte, makes it attractive for low-cost production of hydrogen.


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