Carbon dioxide and water are the main products of burning fossil fuels – our major source of energy for power generation and transportation. Scientists are now interested in its reverse process: artificial photosynthesis, which mimics natural photosynthesis and uses sunlight to convert water and carbon dioxide back into hydrogen, carbon monoxide, methane, and other fuels. As the main product of solar splitting of water, hydrogen is the most ideal zero-emission fuel for future vehicles with the highest energy density. And reduction of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is not only important for fuel production, but also crucial to climate change mitigation.
However, to create a cost-effective chemical process that is not favored by the conditions of the Earth, is always a challenging topic for chemists.
These are the research fields in which Jingshan Luo achieved a series of important breakthroughs.
In photoelectrochemical water splitting, he developed high quality nanowire array photocathode using low-cost materials and solved the incompatibility between the absorption depth and electron transport length. By doing this, he realized the highest solar to hydrogen conversion efficiency for oxide based solar water splitting devices. For the first time, he combined perovskite solar cells with nickel and iron based catalysts for solar water splitting in photovoltaic driven electrolysis. Costing only a 1/5 to a 1/3 of tradition technology, Luo achieved almost the same level of solar to hydrogen conversion efficiency (12.3%) using only inexpensive materials. For CO2 reduction, he developed an inexpensive and Earth-abundant CO2 reduction catalyst and achieved a record solar to CO conversion efficiency of 13.4% at a very high selectivity (>90%). All of the above breakthrough technologies are realized with inexpensive materials, and they are very valuable to both the industry and academia.