The direct generation of fuels from solar light ranks amongst the most prominent challenges for a sustainable energy technology based on regenerative primary energy sources. Such an approach would guarantee the inherent storage problem of electrical energy combined with the discontinuous availability of sun light as well as the safeguarding of mobile implementation (such as air transportation). For this purpose our institute pursues a strategy to generate hydrogen in a solid-state material system in which both the semiconducting absorber and the catalyst are integrated into a structure (HZB Report 2009). Therefore the energy conversion of light into electrical energy via photonic stimulation of the semiconductor is directly combined with the catalytical procedures on the electrolyte-electrode-interface for the conversion into storable chemical energy (hydrogen). The generated hydrogen can than be stored by means of already known methods (compressed gas, liquid-H2, metal hydride, conversion to methanol).
The understanding and steering of the appropriate processes and their interaction is the goal for scientific work and a prerequisite for a sufficiently efficient hydrogen development. This requires high-capacity characterization methods in a broad interactive scientific approach in the fields of photo-physics, surface- and material chemistry, photo-electrochemistry, interface- and surface sciences, as well as system alignment.