Solar Hydrogen Production

Harnessing solar energy will be the key to solving the impending energy crisis in the 21st century. While much progress has been made on photovoltaics (methods to produce electrical power from solar energy) less work has been invested in solar fuels—the production of useful fuels like hydrogen or methanol from solar energy.  In solar hydrogen production, a molecule or nanoparticle is excited by visible light and subsequently transfers an electron to a catalyst, which will make hydrogen via the essential 2H+ + 2e- → H2 reaction. Our group studies the ultrafast dynamics of the initial electronic relaxation and electron transfer events and combines this with long-term studies of system viability. We do this with both femtosecond transient absorption and femtosecond stimulated Raman spectroscopy. In this way, we hope to determine the fundamental photophysics that controls system efficiency and stability, enabling the next generation of solar fuel production.

We collaborate with the group of Professor Rich Eisenberg in Rochester and those of Professor Michael Detty and David Watson at SUNY Buffalo. The Eisenberg and Detty groups have cutting-edge synthetic capabilities to assemble new light-absorbing molecular sensitizers. The Eisenberg group also develops new catalysts for hydrogen production, while the Watson group specializes in the handling of the critical nanoparticles that form the foundational scaffolds of our systems.

This project is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Chemical Catalysis division (grant no. CHE- 1566080). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


People on this project:

  • Dr. Guocan Li (joint with Eisenberg group)
  • Mike Mark
  • Zak Piontkowski
  • Zhi Wu
  • Jessica Freeze

Recent Publications

A Comparative Study of the Photophysics of Phenyl, Thienyl, and Chalcogen Substituted Rhodamine Dyes

Light-driven generation of hydrogen: New chromophore dyads for increased activity based on Bodipy dye and Pt(diimine)(dithiolate) complexes

From Seconds to Femtoseconds: Solar Hydrogen Production and Transient Absorption of Chalcogenorhodamine Dyes

Deactivating Unproductive Pathways in Multichromophoric Sensitizers