For the first time, researchers have succeeded in creating an iron molecule that can serve both as a photocatalyst for the production of fuel and in solar cells for the generation of electricity. The results indicate that the iron molecule could replace the metals used today, which are more expensive and rarer.
Some photocatalysts and solar cells are based on a technology that involves metal-containing molecules called metal complexes. The task of metal complexes in this context is to absorb the sun's rays and use their energy. However, the metals in these molecules are a major problem because they are rare and expensive metals such as the noble metals ruthenium, osmium and iridium.
Replace the rare metals with iron, which is common in the earth's crust and therefore cheap, "says Kenneth Wärnmark of the University of Lund in Sweden.
Along with colleagues, Kenneth Wärnmark has long sought alternatives to expensive metals Researchers focused on iron, which is much easier to obtain, with a prevalence of six percent in the Earth's crust, and researchers have produced their own iron-based molecules that have been proven to be useful in solar energy applications in previous studies.
Researchers have gone a step further and have developed a new iron-based molecule capable of capturing and utilizing the energy of sunlight for a long enough time to react with another molecule.The new iron molecule also has the ability to glow long enough, This is the first time researchers have used Eisenlicht with the naked eye at Raumt can see emperature.
"The good result depends on having the structure optimized around the iron atom," explains colleague Petter Persson from Lund University.
The study is now published in the journal Science . According to the researchers, the iron molecule in question could be used in novel photocatalysts for the production of solar fuel, either as hydrogen by water splitting or as methanol from carbon dioxide. In addition, the new findings open up further potential applications for iron molecules, eg. as materials in light-emitting diodes (LEDs).
What surprised the Lund researchers was that they achieved good results so quickly. In just over five years they succeeded in making iron interesting for photochemical applications, with properties that were broadly as good as those of the best precious metals.
"We believed that it would take at least ten years," says Kenneth Wärnmark. Along with the researchers at Lund University, the collaboration also involved colleagues from the University of Uppsala and the University of Copenhagen.
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