New one-step hydrogen production method uses visible light

The new technique requires no external heating or additional steps to produce H2 gas.

A team of scientists and engineers from Rice University has developed a new technique for producing hydrogen for use in petrochemical industries.

The method would allow harmful gases to be converted into H2 gas for use as clean fuel.

Naomi Halas, a Rice University engineer, physicist and chemist, led the research team. They have created a hydrogen production method that draws energy from light while using gold nanoparticles for the conversion of hydrogen sulfide and sulfur in a single step.

In comparison, the catalytic technology currently used by refineries works according to what is called the Claus process, which requires several stages. Also, the result of this process does not include H2, only sulfur, which is converted to H2O.

“Hydrogen sulfide emissions can lead to heavy fines for industry, but remediation is also very expensive,” explained Halas, who is also a pioneer in nanophotonics and whose lab has focused in recent years. on the development of commercially viable light-activated nanocatalysts. . “The phrase ‘game changer’ is overused, but in this case it applies. Implementing plasmonic photocatalysis is expected to be much less expensive than traditional remediation, and it has the additional potential to turn an expensive burden into an increasingly valuable commodity.

The researchers indicated that the hydrogen fuel production technique was economical.

Halas said this process comes with low implementation costs while providing a high level of efficiency. Moreover, it can be used not only to produce H2 for which there is demand as a clean fuel, but also to remove non-industrial hydrogen sulfide pollution from animal waste and sewage gas, among other sources.

The new process for producing hydrogen fuel involves sprinkling the surfaces of grains of silicon dioxide powder with tiny “islands” of gold, a recent press release on the method said. Each of these islands included a gold nanoparticle that would interact with wavelengths of visible light. The resulting reactions formed “hot carriers”, which are high-energy, short-lived electrons that can drive catalysis. The researchers used an LED light bank to demonstrate their production of “hot carrier photocatalysis” for the conversion of H2S directly to sulfur and H2 gas.