Australian researchers claim new record for direct ‘solar-to-hydrogen’ solar cells

Australian researchers have claimed a new world efficiency record for solar panels that can directly split water using sunlight, in an achievement that opens up a new pathway to low-cost renewable hydrogen.

The achievement has been published in the research journal Advanced Energy Materials, and was led by a team of scientists at the Australian National University.

The researchers were able to demonstrate an “unprecedented” milestone of 17.6 per cent solar to hydrogen efficiency using a “tandem” solar cell, that layered low-cost perovskite materials on top of a conventional silicon solar cell to boost efficiency.

“This represents the highest efficiency achieved so far for a [photoelectrochemical] system based on inexpensive semiconductors for stand-alone solar water splitting,” the research paper says.

“As revealed by our modelling results, the proof-of-concept demonstration offers immense opportunities to further improve the efficiency and reduce costs through optimisation of the performances of the individual components and replacement of precious catalysts with abundant materials.”

The conventional method of using renewable energy to produce hydrogen is by using electricity produced from solar panels or wind turbines to power a standalone electrolyser, which uses the electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

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