Closer to hydrogen production in a solar panel

HyperSolar, Inc. has announced that its artificial photosynthesis technology is now capable of producing 1.0 volt open circuit voltage for use in direct solar hydrogen production. This achievement represents a dramatic voltage increase over the previous 0.2 volt just 8…

HyperSolar, Inc. has announced that its artificial photosynthesis technology is now capable of producing 1.0 volt open circuit voltage for use in direct solar hydrogen production. This achievement represents a dramatic voltage increase over the previous 0.2 volt just 8 months ago, and 0.75 volt just 3 months ago.  The firm’s goal is a breakthrough technology to produce renewable hydrogen using sunlight and any source of water.

It’s well known that the theoretical voltage for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen is 1.23 volts, and approximately 1.5 volts in real-world working systems.  But achieving 1.5 volts using inexpensive solar cells has eluded the world.  For example, silicon solar cells are todays most inexpensive and abundant, but their 0.7-volt output is not enough to split water. Commercially available high voltage solar cells are unfortunately just too expensive for use in mass-market hydrogen production.

Tim Young, CEO of HyperSolar said, “Our cutting-edge research program at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) led by Dr. Syed Mubeen Hussaini continues to make impressive progress. The 1.0-volt milestone is very exciting in that it provides us with a clear and encouraging roadmap to reach the 1.5 volts needed for water splitting. The semi-conductor materials used are very inexpensive, which gives us confidence that a low cost system is possible. The process to make this novel solar cell is equally exciting in that it is a simple solutions-based chemistry process.  It does not require conventional expensive semiconductor processes and facilities.  It was literally made in a beaker.”

Young continues saying, “Recently, Honda and General Motors announced a partnership to bring hydrogen cars to the mass market by 2020. While this is great news for our industry, a major unsolved piece of the puzzle is the low cost production of renewable hydrogen for fueling stations.  We believe that producing renewable hydrogen anywhere there is water and sunlight is the key to realizing a cost-effective hydrogen economy of fuel cell vehicles. We envision that fueling stations can be built next to self-contained solar hydrogen production plants using our low cost technology.”

HyperSolar’s research is centered on developing a low-cost and submersible hydrogen production particle that can split water molecules under the sun, emulating the core functions of photosynthesis. Each particle is a complete hydrogen generator that contains a novel high voltage solar cell bonded to chemical catalysts by a proprietary encapsulation coating. HyperSolar recently extended its sponsored research agreement with UCSB to further the development.

A 1.0-volt cell may not be commercially viable for water splitting to hydrogen, but it is viable in high value photo-catalysis application in the chemical industry, such as bromine extraction from wastewater.  HyperSolar intends to explore those opportunities as part of its overall commercialization strategy.

HyperSolar looks like its well along to a drop in submersible solar powered hydrogen production device.  Getting to 1.5-volts will be more than just news in hydrogen production; it will be noteworthy and important for photoelectric cells, too.

HyperSolar is smart enough to realize that the basic hydrogen production has to be cheap.  Getting the mixed hydrogen and oxygen gas product separated, stored and ready for use is another pat of the consumer investment.  Just how that part of the puzzle is going isn’t on any observer’s watch list, yet.  When HyperSolar looks commercial it will be quite important.

HyperSolar has come a long way very quickly and looks like it may well be the first to market for personal hydrogen production.