05 Sep 2012
New measuring technique 'brings closer' improvements in solar fuel development.
The results have been published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology on 18 August 2012. Professor Bert Weckhuysen from Utrecht University said of this research: "Now we can focus on making solar fuels more profitable."
Certain chemical reactions can be accelerated by sunlight and by contact with catalysts. These photocatalytic reactions can now be monitored on a molecular level thanks to a new measuring technique developed by Utrecht chemists Professor Bert Weckhuysen, PhD student Evelien van Schrojenstein Lantman and Dr. Arjan Mank, and scientists from Jena University Professor Volker Deckert, who works also at the Institute of Photonic Technology in Jena, Germany, and Dr. Tanja Deckert-Gaudig.
The investigators have stated that research may offer new opportunities for the improvement of so-called solar fuels. This sustainable form of fuel stores solar energy in molecules, comparable to photosynthesis in plants.
"Solar fuels are not currently profitable, because we do not know how to produce the fuel efficiently", said Weckhuysen. "Our new measuring technique makes it possible to see exactly what happens during the production of solar fuels, which will enable us to come up with improvements in the future."
In this study, researchers made ingenious use of a sharp needle with a "tip-enhanced Raman microscope", which makes recordings just above the reaction surface. Deckert said: "The key factor is the silver particle at the tip apex that acts as detection system and as a catalyst with nanometer dimension at the same time.
He added, "This enables us to investigate the reaction with unprecedented spatial resolution and sensitivity. Investigation of other catalytic systems should be straight forward."
Their article Catalytic processes monitored at the nanoscale with tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy is published in Nature Nanotechnology, 2012, DOI: 10.1038/NNANO.2012.131. For further information, contact: Professor Dr. Volker Deckert Institute of Physical Chemistry of Jena University , Tel: +49 3641 948347 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Matthew Peach is a contributing editor to optics.org