Wrapped up to Deliver Solar Fuels

New strategy swaddles molecules to produce stable structures that turn light into fuel

Scientists wrapped up two types of molecules to create an assembly that can absorb light and produce hydrogen fuel. Permission granted by The Royal Society of Chemistry (see citation).

Solar panels don't work at night, but storing solar energy as fuel that we can use could be the answer. If we look closely, there are remarkable fuel-producing models all around us. Plants use clusters of molecules to turn sunshine into sugars, which are later used as fuel. In designing similar clusters, scientists struggle with gluing molecules together with covalent bonds and keeping them protected. Recently, scientists have simultaneously avoided this gluing step and protected the molecules with a "mummy strategy." They wrap the light-absorbing molecules in an inert layer. They then add catalysts, which use the energy from the absorbers to create chemical fuels. They then wrap it all up in a protective layer to produce a stable assembly that pumps out fuel for 6 hours when exposed to light. The team is now designing more active catalysts and easing electron flow through the assembly. Scientists at the Center for Solar Fuels, which is led by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, did the research.

More Information: 

Lapides AM, BD Sherman, MK Brennaman, CJ Dares, KR Skinner, JL Templeton, and TJ Meyer. 2015. "Synthesis, Characterization, and Water Oxidation by a Molecular Chromophore-Catalyst Assembly Prepared by Atomic Layer Deposition. The 'Mummy' Strategy." Chemical Science 6:6398-6406. DOI: 10.1039/c5sc01752a