Skip to content

Perspectives for a Sustainable Implementation of Super-green Hydrogen Production by Photoelectrochemical Technology in Hard-to-abate Sectors


The energy transition's success hinges on the effectiveness to curbing carbon emissions from hard-to-abate sectors. Hydrogen (H2) has been proposed as the candidate vector that could be used to replace fossils in such energy-intensive industries. Despite green H2 via solar-powered water electrolysis being a reality today, the overall defossilization of the hard-to-abate sectors by electrolytic H2 would be unfeasible as it relies on the availability of renewable electricity. In this sense, the unbiassed photoelectrochemical water splitting (PEC), as inspired by natural photosynthesis, may be a promising alternative expected in the long term. PEC could be partly or even completely decoupled from renewable electricity and then, could produce H2 autonomously. However, some remaining challenges still limit PEC water splitting to operate sustainably. These limitations need to be evaluated before the scaling up and implementation. A prospective life cycle assessment (LCA) has been used to elucidate a positive performance scenario in which the so-called super-green H2, or photo-H2, could be a sustainable alternative to electro-H2. The study has defined future scenarios by conducting a set of sensitivity assessments, determining the figures of operating parameters such as i) the energy to produce the cell; ii) solar-to-hydrogen efficiency (STH); and iii) lifetime. These parameters have been evaluated based on two impact categories: i) Global Warming Potential (GWP); and ii) fossil Abiotic Depletion Potentials (fADP). The mature water electrolysis was used for benchmarking in order to elucidate the target performance in which PEC technology could be positively implemented at large-scale. Efficiencies over 10% (STH) and 7 years of lifetime are compulsory in the coming developments to achieve a positive scaling-up.

Funding source: Financial support from the project PID2020-112845RB-I00 funded by MCIN/AEI/10.13039/501100011033 is gratefully acknowledged. J. F.-G. would like to thank the financial support of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (MICIN) for the concession of the FPU grant (19/ 05483).
Related subjects: Production & Supply Chain
Countries: Spain

Article metrics loading...

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error