HyperSolar, Inc. announced today that is has identified a low-cost aqueous process to produce artificial photosynthesis particles required for water splitting.

One of major challenges in solar-powered water splitting is the use of expensive high voltage solar cells. To address this challenge, the company’s research team at the University of Iowa (UOI) successfully fabricated a hydrogen production particle with a low cost high voltage solar cell.

Instead of using conventional and expensive vapour deposition processes to make the solar cell component, the team was able to use a water-based process where a silicon wafer was literally “dipped” into beakers of solutions containing appropriate chemistries to create a high voltage multi-junction solar cell.

Unlike conventional multi-junction solar cells that use expensive rare earth materials such as gallium and arsenic, this cell uses inexpensive earth abundant materials. The cell is then bonded to chemical catalysts using a proprietary encapsulation coating to form a self-contained hydrogen generator that can split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, using the power of the Sun.

“We are quite excited that recent results point to the possibility of a very low cost, large scale commercial manufacturing process,” said Professor Syed Mubeen, principal researcher at UOI. “The particles we created did not have enough voltage to split water at a commercially acceptable level. However, by adding a small amount of external voltage, we were able to observe a very high hydrogen production rate. This implies that the junctions themselves are quite efficient, but require just a bit more voltage. Therefore, our next step is to try different combinations of inexpensive materials to get more intrinsic photo voltages.”

Tim Young, CEO of HyperSolar, said, “The achievement of this breakthrough is indicative of the hard work and dedication displayed by the UOI team, as well as the team at the University of Santa Barbara, California.”

“From the outset, our team of scientists has identified various aspects of the process that can be simplified and made more efficient, thus reducing costs. We believe that the technology’s current trajectory has us on pace to become a viable solution for the high-growth hydrogen fuel market, with the potential to produce cost-efficient fuel at or near the point of distribution, such as for a charging station or industrial application.”

HyperSolar’s technology is based on the concept of developing a low-cost, submersible hydrogen production particle that can split water molecules using sunlight without any other external systems or resources - acting as artificial photosynthesis.