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New Book Sheds Light on Photoelectrochemical Water Splitting

Nov. 4, 2013

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) photoelectrochemical (PEC) hydrogen production working group has published the first major compendium of specific methods and tools needed for developing and characterizing materials for PEC water splitting, a promising renewable hydrogen production technology.

Titled “Photoelectrochemical Water Splitting: Standards, Experimental Methods, and Protocols,” the book was recently published as a “Springer Brief in Energy” and serves as a how-to guide for researchers engaged in the rapidly growing field of PEC water splitting. This field of research aims to develop materials that can absorb energy from sunlight to drive electrochemical hydrogen production from the splitting of water.

Compiled and edited by Zhebo Chen of Stanford University, Huyen Dinh of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and Eric Miller of the DOE Fuel Cell Technologies Office, this book outlines many of the techniques involved in materials development and characterization. Topics include 1) proper metrics for describing material performance, 2) how to assemble testing cells and prepare materials for assessing their properties, and 3) how to perform experimental measurements to achieve reliable results and enhance scientific understanding.

“The need to consolidate and standardize the most common methods used by researchers in the field arose because of the substantial complexity in the scientific understanding and experimental protocols required for pursuing accurate and reliable materials development,” said Dinh.

For each technique, proper procedures, benefits, limitations, and data interpretation are discussed. Consolidating this information in a short, accessible, and easy-to-read reference guide allows researchers to more rapidly immerse themselves in PEC research and to better compare their results against those of other researchers.

DOE’s PEC working group, led by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and NREL, consists of national and international PEC experts. The methods and definitions presented are the result of an effort to form consensus among experienced researchers in the field from various stakeholder groups including national laboratories, academic institutions, and international partners. Eleven members of the working group—including NREL’s John Turner, Todd Deutsch, and Keith Emery—served as contributing authors.

“A number of international researchers, many affiliated with the International Energy Agency’s Hydrogen Implementing Agreement, provided excellent feedback on the text,” Dinh added.

Much of the technical work discussed in the book was made possible through the support of EERE’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office.

—Julia Thomas