Solar Panels Generating Electricity Plus Hydrogen Gas

By: Mathias Aarre Maehlum

Dr. Mikhail Zamkov`s team at Bowling Green State University in Ohio have developed a way to use synthetic nanocrystals to increase the durability of conventional solar cells – and to have them produce hydrogen gas.

One of the major drawbacks of today`s photovoltaic equipment is that they are based on organic material, which means they degrade relatively fast when exposed to sunlight. Expensive solar panels seldom come with a warrant longer than 20 years because of damaging UV radiation, which has a significant impact on costs per kWh of electricity that is generated.

Dr. Zamkov and his team have come up with a process that replaces these organic molecules with two nanocrystals made from zinc selenide, cadmium sulfide, and platinum catalysts.Structure of the nanocrystal (Image credit: Bowling Green State University)

“We have established a new method for making photocatalytic and photovoltaic materials. This is important primarily as a new strategy for making photovoltaic films that are 100% inorganic, thus producing a more stable solar panel. It is a design that you could reach marketability,” says Dr. Zamkov about.

On top of the durability improvements, the design also enables the production of hydrogen gas on top of the electricity that is generated. If the nanocrystals are immersed in water and exposed to sunlight, they produce hydrogen. Photovoltaics are notorious for being an intermittent source of energy. Solar cells generate electricity only when exposed to sunlight, which can often be a problem on cloudy days or during the night. Electricity can be stored in batteries, but energy storage through hydrogen gas is likely more efficient.

Source: Novel Technique to Synthesize Nanocrystals That Harvest Solar Energy at JoVE (Journal of Visualized Experiments)