Solar hydrogen production from seawater using stabilized plasmonic photocatalysts. 01/11/2019 - 31/10/2023


In 2012 international shipping emitted about 800 Mton CO2, 18.6 Mton NOx and 10.6 Mton SOx. It is expected that by 2050 these emissions will increase by 250% if no actions are taken. Therefore, scientific research for greener fuel alternatives is highly needed, and hydrogen has been identified as a promising candidate in that context. In this project, abundant seawater (rather than scarce pure water) will be split into hydrogen and oxygen gas using TiO2-based photocatalysts. The major drawback of TiO2 is the fact that it is only activated by ultraviolet (UV) light, corresponding to less than 5% of the incident solar spectrum on Earth. As a solution, the photocatalysts will be modified with ordered bimetallic gold-silver nanoparticles that strongly interact with sunlight. To ensure stability on the long term, even in the presence of a saline reaction environment, the plasmonic nanoparticles will be capped by a protective shell using wet-chemical synthesis techniques. The shell also acts as a spacer layer between the plasmonic cores that tunes the resulting interparticle distance and hot-spot formation. All structures will be thoroughly characterized down to the nanoscale, and action spectrum analysis will be performed in collaboration with Hokkaido University. Seawater splitting is only a very recently studied application. The use of plasmonic nanostructures in that regard is unprecedented, meaning the results from this project will move well beyond the state-of-the-art.


Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project