In one hour, more energy from the sun hits the Earth than all the energy used by humanity in a whole year. Imagine if the sun’s energy could be harnessed to meet the energy needs of energy on Earth, and be done in a way that is economical, scalable and environmentally responsible. Researchers have long seen this as one of the great challenges of the 21st century.
Daniel Esposito, assistant professor of chemical engineering at Columbia Engineering, has been studying the electrolysis of water: the division of water into oxygen (O2) and hydrogen (H2) as a way to convert electricity from photovoltaic (PV) solar energy into fuel of storable hydrogen. . Hydrogen is a clean fuel that is currently used to power rockets in NASA’s space program and is expected to play an important role in a sustainable energy future. The vast majority of the current hydrogen is produced from natural gas through a process called reformed methane with steam that simultaneously releases CO2, but the electrolysis of water that uses electricity from photovoltaic solar energy offers a promising route to produce H2 without any emission of CO2 associated.