CHICAGO – Hydrogen is an incredibly powerful fuel, and the ingredients are everywhere—in plain old water. Researchers would love to be able to use it widely as a clean and sustainable energy source.

One catch, however, is that a considerable amount of energy is required to split water and make hydrogen. Thus scientists have been working on fabricating materials for photoelectrodes that can use solar energy to split water, creating a “solar fuel” that can be stored for later use.

Scientists with the University of Chicago, the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Brookhaven National Laboratory published a new breakthrough in making such photoelectrodes. Their research, reported in Nature Energy on February 18, 2021, demonstrates that modifying the topmost layer of atoms on the surface of electrodes can significantly boost their performance.

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