The research team at the university’s Nano and Molecular Systems Research Unit (NANOMO) have developed a nickel-based catalyst that utilises sunlight to split water into oxygen and hydrogen, allowing them to harness the hydrogen as a source of energy. Using the catalyst instead of the precious metals that are often used in hydrogen fuel cells is what makes the method a noticeably affordable way of producing hydrogen-based energy.
Harishchandra Singh, adjunct professor at the University of Oulu, pointed out that because the method uses a renewable non-carbon energy source like solar, the produced hydrogen is also a renewable source of energy “in the true sense”.
“Solar water splitting directly converts solar energy into hydrogen fuel,” he summed up.
The team were able to deduce why the design was so effective by analysing the catalyst materials with the beamlines of Canadian Light Source at the University of Saskatchewan. Singh explained that the beamlines gave the team access to very intense beams of high-energy X-rays that reveal details on the surface of materials not visible with other techniques.
He has used synchrotron technology for years to carry out his research on structural, construction and energy materials that can support a circular economy.
“Because interactions within the material are happening at the nanoscale, this research would be very hard without the synchrotron,” he told.