New material increases lifetime of solar-powered electrons

Released: March 03, 2016
An innovative property with promise in the energy conversion and storage
The interfaces between the two oxides (represented in this idealized, atomically abrupt model by the yellow and purple bands) create an electric field. The field separates electrons (silver) excited by sunlight (gold), which could be used to catalyze hydrogen fuel production.

An international team of scientists demonstrated a new material by combining two oxide materials on the atomic scale that could store sunlight as fuel to drive fuel cells. The interface between the two oxide materials absorbs visible light, producing electrons and holes that might be useful for catalyzing reactions, such as producing hydrogen fuel. The research team working at EMSL and other facilities synthesized the material as a series of alternating layers that creates a built-in electric field that could help separate the excited electrons and holes to improve the material's performance as a catalyst. This material offers new possibilities for storing solar energy for later use.

The research team included investigators at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, or PNNL; EMSL; Argonne National Laboratory; SuperSTEM; and the University of Oxford.

Read more from PNNL’s Physical Sciences Division.

Reference: Comes RB, SR Spurgeon, SM Heald, DM Kepaptsoglou, L Jones, PV Ong, ME Bowden, QM Ramasse, PV Sushko, and SA Chambers. 2016. "Interface-Induced Polarization in SrTiO3-LaCrO3 Superlattices." Advanced Materials Interfaces. DOI: 10.1002/admi.201500779.