Silicon/CNT substrate from NASA JPL improves photocatalytic hydrogen production

May 16, 2013
Pasadena, CA--NASA JPL is developing a device for hydrogen gas production based on water-splitting redox reactions facilitated by catalysts stacked on carbon nanotubes (CNTs) grown on silicon substrates.

Pasadena, CA--NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is developing a proof-of-concept device for hydrogen gas production based on water-splitting redox reactions facilitated by cobalt tetra-aryl porphyrins (Co[TArP]) catalysts stacked on carbon nanotubes (CNTs) that are grown on n-doped silicon (Si) substrates. The photosynthesis-based (http://www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/print/volume-48/issue-10/features/optofluidics-optofluidics-assists-solar-fuel-generation.html) or bio-inspired (http://www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/2012/02/photosynthetic-molecule-plus-semiconductor-make-efficient-biophotovoltaics.html) operational principle of the proposed device is based on conversion of photoelectron energy from sunlight into chemical energy, which at a later point, can be turned into electrical and mechanical power. The combination of materials is expected to increase the efficiency of the redox reaction.

The proposed device will consist of a degenerately n-doped silicon substrate with Si posts covering the surface of a 4-inch (approximately 10 cm) wafer. The substrate will absorb radiation, and electrons will move radially out of Si to CNT. Si posts are designed such that the diameters are small enough to allow considerable numbers of electrons to transport across to the CNT layer. CNTs will be grown on top of Si using conformal catalyst (Fe/Ni) deposition over a thin alumina barrier layer. Both metallic and semiconducting CNT will be used in this investigation, thus allowing for additional charge generation from CNT in the IR region. Si post top surfaces will be masked from catalyst deposition so as to prevent CNT growth on the top surface.

A typical unit cell will then consist of a Si post covered with CNT, providing enhanced surface area for the photocatalyst. The device will then be dipped into a solution of Co[TArP] to enable coating of CNT with Co(P). The Si/CNT/Co[TArP] assembly then will provide electrons for water splitting and hydrogen gas production. A potential of 1.23 V is needed to split water, and near ideal band gap is approximately 1.4 eV. The combination of doped Si/CNT/Co [TArP] will enable this redox reaction to be more efficient.

This work was done by Xenia Amashukeli, Harish Manohara, Harold F. Greer, Lee J. Hall, Harry B. Gray, and Bryan Subbert of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

SOURCE:NASA Tech Briefs; http://www.techbriefs.com/content/viewng/16331

About the Author

Gail Overton | Senior Editor (2004-2020)

Gail has more than 30 years of engineering, marketing, product management, and editorial experience in the photonics and optical communications industry. Before joining the staff at Laser Focus World in 2004, she held many product management and product marketing roles in the fiber-optics industry, most notably at Hughes (El Segundo, CA), GTE Labs (Waltham, MA), Corning (Corning, NY), Photon Kinetics (Beaverton, OR), and Newport Corporation (Irvine, CA). During her marketing career, Gail published articles in WDM Solutions and Sensors magazine and traveled internationally to conduct product and sales training. Gail received her BS degree in physics, with an emphasis in optics, from San Diego State University in San Diego, CA in May 1986.

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