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ECN publication
Technologies and prospects for photochemical conversion and storage of solar energy : a survey of the state-of-the-art
Published by: Publication date:
ECN Energy Efficiency in Industry 1-2-2001
ECN report number: Document type:
ECN-C--01-029 ECN publication
Number of pages: Full text:
37 Download PDF  

Sustainable and renewable generation of electricity by photovoltaic systems or wind energy systems suffer from the mismatch of supply and demand of energy. Storage of energy is often necessary for these systems to become a competing technology for the conventional energy generation. One way to overcome the problem of storage is the development of photochemical systems that use sunlight (photons) directly to drive reversible chemical reactions leading to products that can be used for energy storage. The present study is a state-of-the-art of photochemical conversion and storage of solar energy and the prospects for future application of this technology. At present, the best systems for photochemical conversion and storage of sunlight are still in the early R and D stage. Most research in this area is directed towards the production of hydrogen as a fuel that could be applied in the future 'hydrogen energy society'. Large-scale commercial application of photochemical production of fuel is not to be expected on the short-term and only in niches of the energy market on the long term. The clear advantage of the conversion of sunlight into chemicals is the flexibility it gives to cope with mismatch between supply and demand of solar energy as regard to time and power/capacity. Much work on the components of photoelectrochemical devices is required to improve the bandgap matching of the applied semiconductors with the desired reactions, to shift the absorption of photons to higher wavelengths in order to use a larger part of the solar energy spectrum, to reduce (photo)corrosion problems of the semiconducting materials and to improve their stability, as well as to improve the performances of the catalysts. Further improvements should be achieved by simple and efficient cell and system design. The economy of photoelectrochemical conversion processes is expected to be in the range of PV/electrolysis. (41 refs.)

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