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Issue 7, 2014
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Sustainable solar hydrogen production: from photoelectrochemical cells to PV-electrolyzers and back again

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Abstract

Sustainable hydrogen production could, in principle, be accomplished along several different routes, where some of the most promising approaches involve utilization of solar energy. Photoelectrochemical cells (PEC-cells) and PV-electrolyzers for solar hydrogen production are here analyzed and compared. The analysis is performed by theoretically designing a number of intermediate devices, successively going from PEC-cells to PV-electrolyzers. The main physical processes: absorption, charge carrier separation, charge carrier transport, and catalysis are analyzed in the different devices. This demonstrates how the two concepts are related, and how one could easily be transformed and converted into the other. The awareness of the close relationship between PEC-cells and PV-electrolyzers is not as widely recognized as it should be. Traditionally, these two approaches have often been considered as fundamentally different, and are far too seldom analyzed in the same context. We argue that the different device designs for solar hydrogen production are best seen as essentially equivalent approaches, and as topological variations of the same basic theme, and can in many cases be unified under the acronym photo driven catalytic (PDC) devices. We further argue that much is to gain by acknowledging the similarities between PEC water splitting and PV-electrolysis, and that one concept alone should not be considered without also considering the other. The analysis and discussion presented could potentially lead to an increased fruitful crossbreeding of the accumulated knowledge in the respective sub-discipline, and aid in realizing solar hydrogen production as a sustainable and economically compatible energy alternative.

Graphical abstract: Sustainable solar hydrogen production: from photoelectrochemical cells to PV-electrolyzers and back again

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Publication details

The article was received on 07 Mar 2014, accepted on 10 Apr 2014 and first published on 11 Apr 2014


Article type: Analysis
DOI: 10.1039/C4EE00754A
Author version available: Download Author version (PDF)
Citation: Energy Environ. Sci., 2014,7, 2056-2070
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    Sustainable solar hydrogen production: from photoelectrochemical cells to PV-electrolyzers and back again

    T. J. Jacobsson, V. Fjällström, M. Edoff and T. Edvinsson, Energy Environ. Sci., 2014, 7, 2056
    DOI: 10.1039/C4EE00754A

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