High-Efficiency Tandem Absorbers for Economical Solar Hydrogen Production

Monday, 25 May 2015: 14:30
Conference Room 4D (Hilton Chicago)
T. G. Deutsch (National Renewable Energy Laboratory), J. L. Young (National Renewable Energy Laboratory, University of Colorado-Boulder), H. Döscher (National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Technische Universität Ilmenau), H. Wang, and J. A. Turner (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)
In this talk I will present an overview of our research strategy to develop a semiconductor-based device capable of over 20% solar-to-hydrogen efficiency with several thousand hours of stability under operating conditions. Our goal is to improve solar-to-hydrogen (STH) efficiency from 12.4% to over 20% by developing novel tandem semiconductor materials and configurations. Our approach focuses on classes of materials that have either demonstrated exceptionally high efficiency or theoretically can produce highly efficient materials. The four tandem material sets in our research portfolio are III-Vs on GaAs, InGaN on Si, III-V-N on Si, and dual photoelectrode pairings. We are evaluating catalytic nitride, oxide, and sulfide-based semiconductor surface modifications to extend durability from a few hundred hours to nearly 1000 hours, with a stretch target of 3500 hours. Cost reductions in the synthesis of high-efficiency III-V photoelectrochemical devices could be realized from emerging epitaxial synthesis technologies such as spalling, epitaxial lift-off, close-space vapor transport, or hydride vapor phase epitaxy to yield economical hydrogen production. Our group addresses synthesis cost, in a limited capacity, by investigating novel material configurations.

Within the next few years, we plan to demonstrate a prototype photoreactor that produces 3 L of standard hydrogen within an 8-hour period under moderate solar concentration (10x), which can be accomplished using only 6 cm2 of a 20% STH material.