Solar energy conversion using photo-fuel-cells
Maria Antoniadou a, Stavroula Sfaelou a, Panagiotis Lianos b
a University of Patras, Engineering Science Dept., Patras, 26500, Greece
b FORTH/ICE-HT, Greece
Oral, Panagiotis Lianos, presentation 019
Publication date: 31st March 2013

Photo-fuel-cells (PFCs) are devices, which produce hydrogen and/or electricity by photocatalytically oxidizing organic substances. Since photocatalysts are not selective towards the photodegradable substance, PFCs can run on any organic substance (fuel) or mixture of substances, including water-soluble wastes. Thus they can produce renewable energy by consuming wastes [1,2]. This is their great advantage compared with standard fuel cells. Of course, they can only function in the presence of light but this turns out to be an additional advantage since they constitute an alternative means of solar energy conversion. A PFC takes the configuration of a standard photoelectrochemical cell, similar to the original and most famous cell proposed by Fujishima and Honda. Thus it is made of two electrodes, the anode, which carries the photocatalyst and the cathode, which supports an electrocatalyst. When light is absorbed by the photocatalyst, electron-hole pairs are generated. Electrons may be partly retained by molecular oxygen producing oxidative radicals but most of them are channeled through the anode electrode and the external circuit to the cathode, where, in the presence of an electrocatalyst, they assist reduction reactions. Holes are consumed by oxidizing the fuel and water. Internal conductivity and functioning of the cell in a cyclic manner is assured in the presence of ionic species (an electrolyte). The photo-fuel-cell may be used to produce hydrogen by photoelectrocatalytic reforming of a fuel or by water splitting, however, this operation can be carried out only under bias.  Production of electricity is an unbiased processes generating substantial electric power.

In this presentation, we will expose our recent experience in the study of PFCs, the materials used as oxidation photocatalysts and reduction electrocatalysts, measures taken for materials optimization, introduction of novel materials  and the prospects for device upscaling.

(1) Lianos P. Production of electricity and hydrogen by photocatalytic degradation of organic wastes in a photoelectrochemical cell The concept of the Photofuelcell: A review of a re-emerging research field. Journal of Hazardous Materials 2011, 185, 575–590 (2) Antoniadou M. et al., Quantum Dot Sensitized Titania Applicable as Photoanode in Photoactivated Fuel Cells. J.Phys.Chem. C 2012, 116, 16901−16909
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