A thin-film process can increase artificial photosynthesis efficiency in producing electricity and oxygen by over a factor of 100.
To artificially produce storable energy in the form of hydrogen and organic compounds requires extracting reaction electrons from a photocatalyst material using the energy in sunlight and, at the electrode, efficiently reacting with water or CO₂. Semiconductor materials and relatively coarse-grained photocatalyst materials have been used in low-density rigid structures for the photoreactive electrodes where sunlight and water react. However, as usable wavelengths of visible light (sunlight) fall in a narrow range, it has been difficult to achieve a sufficient current flow from the chemical reaction.
A technology development by Fujitsu Laboratories is set to change that. The company has improved methods for forming thin films (nanoparticle deposition) of electroceramics on flexible mounting sheets to create capacitors and other passive elements. It has developed a thin-film layering process that uses a nozzle to spray the photocatalyst-material particle that fragments particles on a thin plate.
Here's what research by Fujitsu Labs together with the Crystal Interface Laboratory at the University of Tokyo has found with their process development:
Figure 1: The thin film absorbs up to 630nm, double the sunlight that is captured.
Figure 2: The film's crystalline structure allows electrically excited photons to be transmitted to the electrodes.
Figure 3: The film's surface structure allows greater interaction between water and sunlight.
Together, these features have been confirmed to increase the efficiency in producing electricity and oxygen by over a factor of 100.