The research group led by Georg Brunauer at the Institute for Energy Systems and Thermodynamics at the Vienna University of Technology presented a prototype which essentially consists of two layers. The upper layer, a photovoltaic layer, produces electrical voltage. The electrochemical part below is where the chemical processes should take place in the future. "At present, the voltage is not yet sufficient to split the water“, Brunauer explained. "However, in our study we show that we have taken the decisive step towards realizing the chemical storage of the energy, namely the spatial separation of oxygen and hydrogen, which are the reaction partners,” he adds.
Conventional solar cells only have to function at up to temperatures of about 100 degrees Celsius. For this reason, a suitable material had to be found. “Our photovoltaic layer on a perovskite basis works at temperatures of up to 500 degrees“, Brunauer added.
The scientists are optimistic that they will soon be able to split water on the basis of further optimizing the materials. The hydrogen could then be used, for example, in fuel cells to produce electrical energy. In addition, this could pave the way for other forms of chemical storage. In order to implement a suitable prototype, Brunauer has founded the startup NOVAPECC with an industrial partner. A patent application has also been submitted.