Advances in Nanoscience and Technology
Scaling the Power of Renewable Energy
Professor Uri Banin, founding director of the Hebrew University’s Harvey M. Krueger Family Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, is on the precipice of a new day for solar power as he and his team work are working to harness even more potential from the clean and renewable energy source.
The Situation Today
More energy from sunlight strikes the Earth in one hour than all the energy consumed on the planet in a year. However, there is a lot of daylight between our present use of solar energy and its enormous undeveloped potential. Professor Banin is investigating efficient methods of generating “solar fuel” from water and sunlight. Specifically, this aims at producing hydrogen from water via solar irradiation using nanotechnology.
Implications for Tomorrow
The biggest potential for Professor Banin’s work is in transportation. His team has shown an ability to provide clean fuel where hydrogen is produced from water by clean and free sunlight before returning once more to water after being used to generate electricity in a fuel cell. The production of hydrogen can most efficiently be achieved using nanoparticles, acting as photo-catalysts that utilize solar light and allow the transformation of light energy into chemical energy stored in the hydrogen fuel.
Banin’s team has already demonstrated the feasibility of doing this using hybrid nanoparticles based on the gold-tipped nanostructures that he invented in 2004 while pioneering this area of nano research. Since then a multitude of concepts, new materials and promising applications of these photocatalysts have emerged. Ultimately, these advancements could cut transportation costs while reducing pollution throughout the world.