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Freestanding energy-to-Hydrogen fuel by water splitting using Earth-abundant materials in a novel, eco-friendly, sustainable and scalable photoelectrochemical Cell system

Project description

Advanced system mimics nature’s ability to convert solar to chemical energy

The EU-funded FreeHydroCells project aims to develop a new photoelectrochemical system that can efficiently convert solar to chemical energy. The planned system will mimic the solar-energy absorption potential of a leaf by arraying cascades of nanometre-thick semiconducting materials as buried interfaces known as p-n junctions. When submerged in water and exposed to sunlight, the junctions will split water photoelectrochemically. The produced hydrogen will store the solar energy in a chemical form. FreeHydroCells will leverage advances in areas like thin-film engineering to increase the solar-to-chemical energy conversion. New materials will be cost effectively synthesised using atomic layer deposition and chemical vapour deposition.


The FreeHydroCells project aims to create a new photoelectrochemical system capable of clean, efficient solar-to-chemical energy conversion, with hydrogen gas storing the chemical energy. The system would mimic the solar-energy absorption potential of a leaf by arraying cascades of nanometre thick semiconducting materials as buried pn-junctions that, when submerged in water and exposed to sunlight, are capable of freestanding photoelectrochemical water splitting. A number of technological challenges restrict the cost-effective efficiency of clean, green, solar-to-chemical hydrogen, state-of-the-art systems, making it commercially unattractive, and severely limiting hydrogen’s role in decarbonisation. However, the FreeHydroCells project proposes to leverage a number of advancements in thin film materials, devices, and processes to make similar breakthroughs in photoelectrochemical band-engineering for interconnected bands, defect minimisation, thin film thickness uniformity continuity to minimise drift-dominated transit times, carrier doping for high conductivity, carrier type selectivity and, importantly, preventing significant recombination of light-generated carriers by ensuring drift transport under multiple in-built electric fields. These breakthroughs would transform the transfer efficiency of solar-to-chemical energy via the carefully aligned redox potential and propel the photoelectrochemical water splitting reactions to morph solar energy into hydrogen bonds. The new materials system could be cost-effectively realised through modified delivery techniques of atomic layer deposition and chemical vapour deposition in manufacturing-compatible, large-area capable, equipment that is now common in commercial chip and solar cell processing technologies. FreeHydroCells’ multidisciplinary expertise is key to making this substantial science-to-technology leap: to verify a paradigm proof-of-concept for a self-driven system suitable for up-scaling and commercialisation.


Net EU contribution
€ 1 510 442,50
T12 YN60 Cork

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Ireland Southern South-East
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 510 442,50

Participants (6)