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Projects. Life and Matter Sciences

Photoproduction of hydrogen with atomic quantum clusters using visible light

Lead Researcher: Carlos Vázquez Vázquez
Research Centre: Instituto de Investigaciones Tecnológicas. Laboratorio NANOMAG. Santiago de Compostela.


Carlos Vázquez VázquezCurrently, society's huge energy consumption is satisfied mostly by the use of fossil fuels with all their associated problems (contamination, reserves...) making it imperative to find alternative energies that can displace fossil fuels. Moreover, it is essential to develop forms of energy that also minimize global warming emissions produced by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases

Hydrogen is the best fuel choice from both the perspective of energy content and environmental impact. It is one of the most abundant elements on Earth and it is the only energy source that produces only water after combustion. Its widespread use for energy therefore has the potential for the greatest positive impact on the environment, health and economy.

Solar energy flux to Earth represents more than a thousand times the current use of energy but this energy resource scarcely attains 1% of the total electricity production from renewable sources.

The aim of this Project is to research and propose viable solutions for solar energy harvesting, taking advantage of the extraordinary catalytic properties of the atomic quantum clusters (AQCs) of metal elements. AQCs consist in groups of metal atoms of well-defined compositions and with one or few stable geometrical structures. AQCs show discrete energy levels and similar behaviour as semiconducting materials (titanium dioxide, zinc oxide…). Due to their small size (less than ca. 1 nanometer; i.e., the millionth part of a millimetre) they show important photocatalytic activities. In addition, AQCs properties are dependent on the number of atoms and the kind of metal; so, they are very versatile and we expect to overcome the low conversion efficiencies of solar energy in hydrogen that are obtained with traditional semiconductors. In this Project we will study the use of AQCs for developing efficient systems for solar energy harvesting and its conversion in hydrogen, so it can be used as alternative fuel to the actual fossil fuels.

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