Splitting image: Sustainable hydrogen production is a key target for the development of alternative, future energy systems that will provide a clean and affordable energy supply. This Minireview focuses on the development of semiconductor catalysts that enable hydrogen production via water splitting upon visible-light irradiation.
Sustainable hydrogen production is a key target for the development of alternative, future energy systems that will provide a clean and affordable energy supply. The Sun is a source of silent and precious energy that is distributed fairly all over the Earth daily. However, its tremendous potential as a clean, safe, and economical energy source cannot be exploited unless the energy is accumulated or converted into more useful forms. The conversion of solar energy into hydrogen via the water-splitting process, assisted by photo-semiconductor catalysts, is one of the most promising technologies for the future because large quantities of hydrogen can potentially be generated in a clean and sustainable manner. This Minireview provides an overview of the principles, approaches, and research progress on solar hydrogen production via the water-splitting reaction on photo-semiconductor catalysts. It presents a survey of the advances made over the last decades in the development of catalysts for photochemical water splitting under visible-light irradiation. The Minireview also analyzes the energy requirements and main factors that determine the activity of photocatalysts in the conversion of water into hydrogen and oxygen using sunlight. Remarkable progress has been made since the pioneering work by Fujishima and Honda in 1972, but he development of photocatalysts with improved efficiencies for hydrogen production from water using solar energy still faces major challenges. Research strategies and approaches adopted in the search for active and efficient photocatalysts, for example through new materials and synthesis methods, are presented and analyzed.