IEA HIA Task 26 - Advanced Material for Hydrogen WaterPhotolysis

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Operating Agent: Dr. Eric Miller, Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (ericm@hawaii.edu)

Term:  Task 26 was launched in 2008 for a three year term.

Purpose and Objectives: 

The four big picture objectives of the Task 26 program concern:

Intensification of international collaboration, making use of extended fields of expertise in areas of materials theory, synthesis and characterization, as well as data and data-base management;

Advancement of photoelectrode materials science, particularly addressing the discovery of new practical materials, with bulk and surface properties specifically engineered to meet the requirements for efficient and stable Photoelectrochemical (PEC) water splitting;

Demonstration of stable and efficient water splitting in the leading materials systems, using standardized performance characterizations and round-robin testing procedures; and

Promotion of photolysis of water through publications, education and outreach program.

Background: 

Photoelectrochemical (PEC) hydrogen production, using sunlight to directly split water, is one of the paramount enabling technologies for a future where hydrogen is widely deployed as an energy carrier.  The traditional semiconductor-based PEC material systems studied to date, in particular the simple metal oxides such as TiO2, WO3 and Fe2O3, however, have been unable to meet all the performance, durability and cost requirements for practical hydrogen production.Technology enabling breakthroughs are needed in the development of new, advanced materials systems. Toward this end, the IEA Hydrogen Implementation Agreement Task 26, working in close conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Working Group on PEC Hydrogen Production”, is bringing together international experts in analysis, theory, synthesis and characterization from the academic, industry and national laboratory research sectors across the world.

Description: 

The main goal of the new Task 26 is to seamlessly extend the excellent R&D efforts made under previous PEC Tasks 14 and 20 toward practical material and systems solutions for water-photolysis.  In this continued research, photon conversion efficiency and durability will be judged as the main measures of success in the development of new PEC materials. A three-year collaborative R&D program (with potential for extension to five years) has been initiated that plans to involve research experts from Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the USA as well as the European Commission. There is serious interest from other countries, both current and prospective IEA HIA members.

Progress:   

Within Task 26, international Task Forces are being assembled to advance the state-of-the-art in PEC materials theory, synthesis and characterization; and to apply these techniques in the development of promising, broad-ranging PEC materials systems, including complex metal-oxide, sulfide, and -nitride compounds; amorphous silicon alloys; III-V semiconductors; and the copper chalcopyrites. Key supporting activities include establishing standardized testing and screening protocols for candidate PEC materials systems, setting up comprehensive databases of PEC research and development efforts and results, and performing techno-economic analyses of competing PEC production systems based on the new materials being developed.  

PEC is sometimes called the Holy Grail of hydrogen production. Sunlight directly splits water using a low-temperature, and potentially low-cost process. However, the development of practical demonstration systems requires significant scientific and engineering efforts through ongoing, well-structured R&D programs. The IEA HIA Task 26 is helping to provide this structure on a world-wide stage.