Underwater plants inspire better solar cells


RESEARCHERS in South Korea have developed an artificial leaf that mimics underwater photosynthesis of aquatic plants to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, a study published in Nature Communications said.

The significance of the research is that it may bring the efficiency of metal oxide-based hydrogen generation, a potentially inexpensive way to produce fuel, one step closer to practical application, the researchers said.

The research team led by Professors Lee Jae Sung and Jang Ji-Wook of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) used two photoanodes of different bandgaps connected in parallel for extended light harvesting.

The design of the light collector was inspired by marine plants, which do not receive the full spectrum of sunlight under the sea, the researchers explained.

The dual photoanode silicon solar cell had a water splitting efficiency of 7.7 percent, close to the 10 percent target required for solar-powered hydrogen production to be practical.

“We aim to achieve ten percent enhanced light harvesting efficiency within three years,” Lee said. “This technology will greatly contribute to the establishment of the renewable-energy-type hydrogen refueling station by supplying cheap fuel for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.”


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