Nanowire: How Can We Easily Harvest Solar Energy


There is a new research about nanowires that can make the entire process of harvesting solar energy easier. The study has been published by a team of researchers from the Stony Brook University. 

In order to study nanowires, they performed x-ray absorption spectroscopy experiments. They did this to characterize the chemical state of titanium dioxide on zinc oxide nanowires. Then, they processed the nanowires chemically to make the coatings. This thing boosted the efficiency of the nanowires in catalyzing the water-splitting reaction. This reaction produces hydrogen and oxygen, which together form a sustainable fuel, that is likely to adhere. The results of the characterization were coupled with electron microscopy imaging.  

How did they do it?

The solar energy was harvested by semiconductors, a material whose electrical resistance is in between regular metals and insulators. It can trigger the surface electrochemical reactions to made sustainable fuels, like hydrogen.  

The highly stable and active catalysts were needed in order to accelerate these reactions, especially when it came to splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. Researchers have found many strong light-absorbing semiconductors that could be possible catalysts. But many of those, due to photocorrosion, lost their activity for the water-splitting reaction. The corrosion that was induced by light – photocorrosion, takes place when the catalyst itself goes through chemical reactions, such as reduction or oxidation through charge carriers. These charge carriers are generated bt light excitation. And this degradation limits the catalytic activity. 

As of now, scientists have come up with a brand new technique in order to optimize the activity of such a catalyst. We are talking about 500-nanometer-long, however somewhat thin nanostructures, that look like a wire. They are made out of zinc oxide. The technique is made by treating the surface of the nanowires chemically so that they can be uniformly coated with an ultrathin part of titanium dioxide.  


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