NX Fuels (Green hydrogen from solar water splitting)

NX Fuels (dba Carbon Fuels) develops photochemical water splitting technology based on Indium gallium nitride (InGaN) nanowires that can achieve efficient and stable solar water splitting for hydrogen generation.

Challenges: hydrogen fuel

Hydrogen (H₂) is a “simple solution” to address the world's energy problems and needs. For large scale solar-fuel production, one-step solar water (H₂O) splitting for hydrogen generation is a simple, low-cost method that can use nearly neutral pH water, such as sea water.

In this photochemical water splitting method, the most promising material is InGaN photocatalysts, whose band gap energy can be tuned across nearly the entire solar spectrum and which straddle the water redox potentials under ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared light irradiation. In addition,  InGaN has excellent chemical stability. Consequently, InGaN promises highly efficient and stable water splitting.

However, the efficiency of water splitting with InGaN remains extremely low, primarily due to the unbalanced extraction/collection of charge carriers. When InGaN photocatalysts are in contact with water, fermi-level pinning results in semiconductor surface band bending, which creates an additional energy barrier for charge carrier transport to the photocatalyst-water interface, leading to significantly reduced reaction rate, extremely low efficiency, and corrosion of InGaN. Although the presence of surface band bending is considered advantageous for photoelectrochemical water splitting in which oxidation and reduction reactions occur at separate electrodes, it should be minimized for photochemical water splitting in order to achieve balanced, efficient, and stable redox reactions.

NX Fuels Technology

NX Fuels develops one-step photochemical water splitting technology based on arrays of magnesium (Mg)-doped InGaN nanowires with favorable surface band bending. The Mg dopants reduce hole depletion and an electron accumulation in a near-surface region of the InGaN nanowires, resulting in a more balanced redox reaction for water splitting, thereby enhancing the photocatalytic efficiency and stability of the InGaN nanowires.

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