Prof. Avner Rothschild and his research team in the Technion Faculty of Materials Science and Engineering have made a breakthrough in solar fuels. Using the power of the sun and ultrathin films of iron oxide (commonly known as rust), the researchers have found a novel way to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The breakthrough, published this week in Nature Materials, could lead to less expensive, more efficient ways to store solar energy in the form of hydrogen-based fuels. This could be a major step forward in the development of viable replacements for fossil fuels. "At the end of the day, we would like to substitute solar energy for oil," Rothschild has said.
"Our approach is the first of its kind," says lead researcher Rothschild. "We have found a way to trap light in ultrathin films of iron oxide that are 5,000 times thinner than typical office paper. This is the enabling key to achieving high efficiency and low cost. "
The research was carried out, in the Electroceramic Materials & Devices Laboratory; and at the Photovoltaics Laboratory. Both labs are supported by the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute (RBNI) and by the Grand Technion Energy Program (GTEP).