Recent economic and environmental factors have propelled an interest towards the development of scalable technologies to increase the share of renewable sources into our energy portfolio. Artificial photosynthesis systems are a promising alternative as they can simultaneously capture and store solar energy in the form of chemicals. Systems based on photoelectrochemical (PEC) cells can take low energy density reactants such as water and/or carbon dioxide and transform them into energy dense hydrogen or carbon containing molecules via light-driven processes. Devices based on PEC cells need to incorporate cost-effective components that can perform the light-absorption, catalytic reactions, ion transport and product separation processes. All of these processes need to take place in parallel, imposing strong interactions and interdependence between all of the components of solar-chemical generators. Furthermore, these interactions require all of the components to operate stably under compatible conditions (i.e. electrolyte composition, pH, irradiation level, temperature). The work presented here tackles the electrolyte compatibility issues in novel water-splitting approaches that perform the ionic transport and gas separation tasks in unconventional ways. The examples discussed here range from the operation of scalable devices under near-neutral buffered electrolytes; the incorporation of fluidic approaches that allow electrolysis devices to produce nearly-pure gases without the need of a separation membrane; and the fabrication of microstructured electrolyzers that produce hydrogen directly from humid air. Related developments in the production of Solar-Chlorine and Solar-Textiles will also be discussed.
Miguel Modestino is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering of New York University. He obtained his B.S in Chemical Engineering (2007), M.S. in Chemical Engineering Practice (2008) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley (2013) under the guidance of Prof. Rachel Segalman. From 2013-2016, he was a post-doctoral fellow at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, where he served as project manager for the SHINE-Nanotera project. His research interests lies at the interface of electrochemical energy conversion devices and multifunctional polymer composites.