Live Chat: Splitting Water to Store Energy

When a plant uses the sun’s energy to split water molecules, it shuttles hydrogen (separated as protons and electrons) into a reaction sequence to help it grow. But when scientists split water molecules in a type of artificial photosynthesis, the goal isn’t to grow an artificial plant. It’s about storing energy in hydrogen as a fuel.

In order to replace a big fraction of fossil fuel power with solar power, we need a way to store energy from the bright noon sun to use at night or when it’s cloudy. With artificial photosynthesis, scientists can make hydrogen under sunny skies to store energy, then turn it back into water when they need the energy back. The idea has been around for decades, but lately there has been a flurry of new research. What’s the state of the art in water-splitting? What are the obstacles to making it cheaper and more efficient? And will it really help us reduce our dependence on fossil fuel?

Join chemists John Turner of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Richard Eisenberg of the University of Rochester on Thursday, 21 November, at 3 p.m. EST on this page for a live video chat where we discuss this burgeoning field of research and take your questions. Be sure to leave your queries for our guests in the comment box below.