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Storing sunlight

Hands-on at the exhibit

  • See the process of natural photosynthesis - splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen – for real!
  • Return to your childhood and race our two cars, one powered by a solar cell and another one powered with a hydrogen fuel cell, and see which one wins!
  • Be a real scientist and extract chlorophyll from plants, and look at its optical properties using a gadget called a UV-visible spectrophotometer
  • Observe the water splitting reaction for yourself using a Hoffman voltameter.

Find out more

One of the biggest challenges of our society is how to use sunlight as a renewable energy source to meet the demands of people across the world. Solar energy is the main energy source of our planet and can be converted into electricity using solar panels. One hour of sunlight which arrives at the surface of the Earth provides sufficient energy for the entire planet for a whole year! But the sun doesn’t always shine, so solar energy needs to be stored so that it can be used when needed.

Solar energy can be used to drive chemical reactions, such as splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen is a clean and renewable fuel and is already being used in fuel cell vehicles, and when it is burnt, only water is produced as a by-product. This means solar energy is not only a renewable energy source, but it doesn’t produce any harmful by-products.

Artificial photosynthesis aims to store solar energy by mimicking plants, which use sunlight to convert water and carbon dioxide into high energy chemicals or a ‘fuel’. But this chemical reaction is very challenging. For our research, we are developing catalysts that can perform the reaction in a sustainable and efficient manner.

Find out more about the coordination of the project and some coverage from BBC News.

Presented by: Teeside University and The King's Academy.

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