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Harnessing hydrogen with platinum

NSF Award:

Tennessee Solar Conversion and Storage using Outreach, Research and Education (TN-SCORE)  (University of Tennessee Knoxville)

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To generate hydrogen fuel from water, multiple research groups are adding hydrogen-producing catalysts such as platinum to the process of photosynthesis. In most studies, however, the biohybrid catalyst is generated and tested in a solution. This approach can limit practical applications of the technology.

Now, researchers working with the NSF-funded Tennessee Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (TN-EPSCoR) have developed an alternative method to jump-start photosynthetic reactions. The investigators convert light into electrons with platinum catalysts embedded on a thick film of photosynthetic cells. This system may provide other researchers in the field with a new tool for analyzing the electrochemical interface of these catalysts.

When George W. Bush announced a hydrogen fuel initiative in his 2003 State of the Union speech, interest in hydrogen as an energy carrier increased substantially. However, free hydrogen is not readily found in nature; thus, the production of hydrogen from water or natural gas has become a topic of great interest to researchers. The use of a biohybrid catalyst that can use solar energy to generate hydrogen offers a promising avenue for continued research.

Images (1 of )

  • platinum particles assessed with scanning electrochemical microscopy
  • platinum particles boost photosynthetic reactions making it easier to generate hydrogen
Platinum particles (green) boost photosynthetic reactions making it easier to generate hydrogen.
David Cliffel, Vanderbilt University
Scanning electrochemical microscopy (SECM) demonstrates the catalytic ability of platinum particles.
David Cliffel, Vanderbilt University

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