Dr Dominic Walsh - Energy Materials Group

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Dr Dominic Walsh

Dr Dominic Walsh, Visiting Research Fellow  

Production of solar fuels by artificial photosynthesis

The study of artificial photosynthesis continues to increase in importance with the aim of generating storable ‘solar fuels’ such as hydrogen and methanol. This area represents a viable and equally important alternative to the generation of electricity via semiconductor photovoltaic cells. Central to the sunlight-driven generation of fuels is the water oxidation reaction where, in a process similar to that of the green plant PSII, water is split into oxygen, proton and electron source materials.

2O + 4hv→ O2↑+ 4H+ + 4e-  then

                              4H+ → 2H
2  or e.g.  CO2+ 6H+ + 6e− → CH3OH + H2O

To bring artificial photosynthesis closer to implementation low cost abundant elements should be employed as the water oxidation catalyst. The efficiency and lifetime of the photocatalytic reaction also needs to greatly increase, among other necessary improvements. My research involves the synthesis of stabilized metal and mixed- metal oxides of cobalt, manganese, iron etc. as simple analogues of the natural protein bound CaMn4O5 catalytic cluster. These materials are then tested in visible light driven water splitting reactions. The ultimate aim is the development of an efficient photoelectrochemical cell powered by visible light in which the liberated protons are readily reduced to hydrogen at an electrode or the electrons used to reduce CO2 into hydrocarbon fuels.

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