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  • Nottingham wins research award

Jul 2009
Charles T. Troy,

NOTTINGHAM, UK – A project at the University of Nottingham designed to produce hydrogen on an environmentally friendly and cost-effective basis by using solar energy has won an E.ON UK research award. The topic was applying nanotechnology in the energy sector. The awards were given to nine projects by 11 universities and institutes from the UK, Sweden, Greece, USA, Australia and Germany.

The Nottingham process for producing “green” hydrogen uses three abundant and renewable sources: sunlight, biomass and water. It combines solar-driven cleavage of water and the degradation of organic compounds, eliminating the need for energy derived from fossil fuels and CO2 emissions. Hydrogen has huge potential as an environmentally clean energy fuel.

Associate professor Gianluca Li Puma, an expert in photocatalysis and photoreaction engineering at the university’s Energy Technologies Research Institute (ETRI) and at the Faculty of Engineering, is a coordinator of the €920,000 project, which is being carried out in collaboration with the University of Patras in Greece.

Solar energy will be collected through a nanostructured photocatalyst and used in a photoreactor to release hydrogen from the mixtures of biomass and water.

“Hydrogen production by conventional water splitting over a nanostructured photocatalyst has been the topic of numerous investigations,” Li Puma said. But after initial enthusiasm, it was realized that hydrogen production rates were too modest to warrant scale-up. In contrast, the solar-hydrogen process, which has been demonstrated at a laboratory scale, yields hydrogen at rates up to 100 times greater than with conventional water splitting, making it commercially feasible.

In 2008, the University of Nottingham secured two other E.ON awards on energy storage led by professors George Chen and Seamus Garvey, respectively. E.ON UK, part of the E.ON Group, is an investor-owned power and gas company.

Launched in November 2006, ETRI brings together academics and industrial partners nationally and internationally to develop energy technologies that are both sustainable and affordable.

The use of atoms, molecules and molecular-scale structures to enhance existing technology and develop new materials and devices. The goal of this technology is to manipulate atomic and molecular particles to create devices that are thousands of times smaller and faster than those of the current microtechnologies.
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