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Photoelectrolysis, also known as water splitting, occurs in a photoelectrochemical cell when light is used as the energy source for the electrolysis of water, producing dihydrogen which can be used as a fuel. This process is one route to a "hydrogen economy", in which hydrogen fuel is produced efficiently and inexpensively from natural sources without using fossil fuels.[1] In contrast, steam reforming usually or always uses a fossil fuel to obtain hydrogen. Photoelectrolysis is sometimes known colloquially as the hydrogen holy grail for its potential to yield a viable alternative to petroleum as a source of energy; such an energy source would supposedly come without the sociopolitically undesirable effects of extracting and using petroleum.

Some researchers have practiced photoelectrolysis by means of a nanoscale process. Nanoscale photoelectrolysis of water could someday reach greater efficiency than that of "traditional" photoelectrolysis. Semiconductors with bandgaps smaller than 1.7 eV would ostensibly be required[citation needed] for efficient nanoscale photoelectrolysis using light from the Sun.

Devices based on hydrogenase have also been investigated.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Crabtree, G. W.; Dresselhaus, M. S.; Buchanan, M. V. (2004). "The Hydrogen Economy". Physics Today. 57: 39. Bibcode:2004PhT....57l..39C. doi:10.1063/1.1878333.
  2. ^ Parkin, Alison (2014). "Chapter 5. Understanding and Harnessing Hydrogenases, Biological Dihydrogen Catalysts". In Peter M.H. Kroneck and Martha E. Sosa Torres. The Metal-Driven Biogeochemistry of Gaseous Compounds in the Environment. Metal Ions in Life Sciences. 14. Springer. pp. 99–124. doi:10.1007/978-94-017-9269-1_5.