Let it shine.
Researchers from the German Max Planck Institute have now developed a catalyst that may do just that. As they report in the journal Angewandte Chemie, titanium disilicide splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. And the semiconductor doesn’t just act as a photocatalyst, it also stores the gases produced, which allows an elegant separation of hydrogen and oxygen.
“The generation of hydrogen and oxygen from water by means of semiconductors is an important contribution to the use of solar energy,” explains Martin Demuth (of the Max Planck Institute for Bioinorganic Chemistry in Mülheim an der Ruhr). “Semiconductors suitable for use as photocatalysts have been difficult to obtain, have unfavorable light-absorption characteristics, or decompose during the reaction.”
Demuth and his team have now proposed a class of semiconductors that have not been used for this purpose before: Silicides. For a semiconductor, titanium disilicide (TiSi2) has very unusual optoelectronic properties that are ideal for use in solar technology. In addition, this material absorbs light over a wide range of the solar spectrum, is easily obtained, and is inexpensive.