Hematite, once regarded as a powerful tool by ancient shamans, and then disregarded as anything other than a shiny (and often magnetic) rock for many, many years, has once again been realized for its value in cultivating energy by modern scientists. For many years, scientists have struggled to find an efficient method to split water to mine electron-rich hydrogen for clean energy. It had always been found that Hematite could work, but its low performance stopped it from being a solution to clean energy… until now. By re-growing the minerals surface, a smoother version of hematite doubled the electrical yield, which then opened the door to harvesting energy using artificial photosynthesis. This was all published only in the last week in the journal Nature Communications.
By simply smoothing the surface characteristics of hematite, this close cousin of rust can be improved to couple with silicon, which is derived from sand, to achieve complete water splitting for solar hydrogen generation,’ said Wang, whose research focuses on discovering new methods to generate clean energy. ‘This unassisted water splitting, which is very rare, does not require expensive or scarce resources.’
‘Upon running the tests, they immediately saw a dramatic improvement in voltage, as well as an increase of photovoltage from .24 volts to .80 volts, which was a dramatic increase in the amount of power generated than ever before seen!
The team described that with some more modifications, this hematite-silicon method of splitting water would be easily amenable to large scale utilization!Not to mention, the re-growth technique might also be usable on other materials. Hematite may not be the only crystal that can do this, and if so, there are a lot of possibilities for this technology in the future.
‘This offers new hope that efficient and inexpensive solar fuel production by readily available natural resources is within reach,’ said Wang. ‘Getting there will contribute to a sustainable future powered by renewable energy.’