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New solar cell generates hydrogen and electricity at the same time

In the ongoing pursuit of abundant, renewable alternatives to fossil fuels, scientists have produced hydrogen for fuel cells through artificial photosynthesis, which splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. Traditional processes have struggled to use optical, electronic and chemical properties in a way that makes this method efficient, but now researchers from Berkeley Lab have created a recipe that could completely bypass the limitations in current materials.

The team has created an artificial photosynthesis device called a “hybrid photoelectrochemical and voltaic (HPEV) cell,” that turns sunlight and water into two types of energy: hydrogen fuel and electricity. Existing artificial photosynthesis devices can only make use of small percentages of the sunlight that hits them. As lead author of the study, Gideon Segev, says, “It’s like always running a car in first gear. This is energy that you could harvest, but because silicon isn’t acting at its maximum power point, most of the excited electrons in the silicon have nowhere to go, so they lose their energy before they are utilized to do useful work.”

Source: New solar cell generates hydrogen and electricity at the same time