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Published: 27 Dec, 2018

If a leaf can do it – we can do it too!

NEWS Green leafs have an exquisite way of catching light and producing energy from the sun. Chemist Anurag Kawde shows in his thesis that mimicking the leaf to harvest solar energy and thus to store the energy from sunlight in usable solar fuels is possible in a cost effective way. He defends his results on December 13 at Umeå University.

For the last century, humankind has been hugely dependent on fossil fuels to meet its energy needs. Harnessing energy from fossil fuels lead to the emission of greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases such as carbondioxide are a major contributor to global warming.

It is high time to find an alternative source of energy. Such an energy source must be renewable, sustainable, robust and free of greenhouse gases. Our earth has a non-stop supply of solar energy and water in oceans, harvesting energies from such resources will not only be clean but also inexpensive. Solar fuels such as hydrogen generated from sunlight and seawater using earth-abundant materials are expected to be a crucial component of a next generation renewable energy mix.

Anurag Kawde worked with artificial photosynthesis during his PhD research. Anurag's thesis is dedicated to the fabrication of photo electrodes from earth abundant materials such as silicon, a main component of sand, and iron-oxide (rust) to harvest solar energy. Such materials are known to act as semiconductor photocatlysts, but no efficient and stable devices for the overall process have been constructed from them yet.

These materials, when immersed in water and exposed to sunlight, can split water that results in the production of hydrogen and oxygen.

"I show in my thesis, that these materials are capable of splitting fresh water and seawater with efficiencies of up to 1.2 percent".

Importantly, he developed a simple, solution based fabrication process for photoelectrodes from such materials that can be expected to be extremely cost effective. To understand how the new photoelectrodes work, Anurag studied them down to the atomic level using high energy X-rays.

The experiments were performed at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), under the supervision of Dr. Pieter Glatzel in Grenoble, France, assistant supervisor to Anurag Kawde.

About the dissertation:

Thursday 13 December Anurag Kawde, Department of Chemistry at Umeå University, defends his thesis with the title: Advanced silicon photoelectrodes for water splitting devices: design, preparation and functional characterization by photo-electrochemistry and high-energy X-ray spectroscopy.
The dissertation takes place at 10.00 am at Lilla hörsalen in KBC building.
The opponent is Prof. Thomas F. Jaramillo from Stanford University.

For more information, please contact:

Anurag Kawde, Department of Chemistry at Umeå University
Telephone:+46070-441 31 75

Press photo: Ingrid Söderbergh