Hybrid Solid-State/Electrochemical Photoelectrode for Hydrogen Production

Case ID: 00383


Fossil fuels provide about 85% of the world’s energy but scientists have been trying to find alternative energy sources for decades because of the attendant environmental problems and the increasing costs of exploration and production associated with fossil fuels. Adding to these problems, the US Department of Energy projects that the world’s total energy consumption will rise 59% between 1999 and 2020. Many believe that hydrogen is the answer to the environmental, cost, and rising demand problems but hydrogen has always been difficult and costly to produce. However, researchers at the University of Hawai’i have developed a way to generate hydrogen using solar energy with new materials that are inexpensive and chemically wont break down over time.

The process uses a semiconductor photoelectrode and solar energy to split water into its constituent hydrogen and oxygen gases. It is basically a type of photovoltaic cell, which, when immersed into an aqueous solution, can develop sufficient voltage under sunlight to split the water into its component parts. The hydrogen gas generated is extremely pure, and can be collected, stored, and later fed into hydrogen fuel cells for powering homes, businesses, automobiles, buses, etc. The oxygen can also be stored and used for many medical and industrial applications.



  • Hydrogen as a power source in fuel cells. 
  • Oxygen and Hydrogen as industrial gases.
  • High purity oxygen for medical applications.


  • Solar energy to power the hydrogen/oxygen separation; provides a renewable power source and permits independent, on-site use. 
  • Generates high-purity hydrogen and oxygen.
  • Uses low cost materials.
  • Features a simple design that is easy to fabricate.
  • Good chemical stability. 
Patent Information:
Eric Miller
Richard Rocheleau

For information, contact:
Avery Munoz
Licensing Associate
University of Hawaii

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