Current Research - Solar Fuels
The release of CO2 from the combustion of fossil fuels is the primary cause of Global Warming, which is damaging the earth’s climate and ecosystems. To mitigate the effects of climate change, an immediate reduction in CO2 emissions must occur.
Sunlight is mankind’s largest energy source, which should be exploited to reduce our CO2 emissions. Natural photosynthesis is the perfect example how sunlight can be used to produce renewable fuel. Bio-inspired approaches, called artificial photosynthesis, have shown great promise. One particularly promising approach is the solar driven photolysis of water, otherwise known as water splitting. During this process water is converted into oxygen and hydrogen fuel; a fuel that burns cleanly back to water without any CO2 release. However, an economically viable water splitting device remains elusive.
Many metal oxide semiconductors are capable of water splitting. Metal oxides are often durable, possess low toxicity and can be grown by low cost methods. They also have the potential to stabilise less durable materials. My research focuses on the development of metal oxide based water splitting devices, composed of inexpensive earth abundant elements, to show competitive efficiencies and lifetimes. Typically these devices are constructed using low-cost and industrially up-scalable methods, such as CVD. Using TAS we have explored the relationship between charge carrier lifetime and water splitting kinetics. This has granted us insight on how metal oxide heterojunctions function and allowed us to assess their limitations and formulate design strategies for improving them.