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NTHU Researchers at the Vanguard of Clean Energy
Using water to generate pollution-free hydrogen energy has long been the dream of energy researchers. With this goal in mind, a research team led by Professor Yen Ta-Jen of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, has recently found a way to increase the efficiency of water splitting by using a plasmonic nano-antenna incorporated with bilayer molybdenum disulfide (MoS2), thereby boosting the efficiency of hydrogen production by nearly 30 times. Their findings have recently been published in the top journal Advanced Energy Materials and was also highlighted as an inside cover.
 
Hydrogen energy is a clean energy source. In the past, it was mainly obtained by electrolyzing water, which is costly. Recently, photoreaction has gradually become the preferred way to split water, but such method is hampered by its low efficiency. Thus researchers worldwide have been searching for a low-cost and high-efficiency catalyst for splitting water.
 
More recently, a team of Yen’s doctoral students has successfully discovered an efficient way to split water for hydrogen evolution reaction and completed a paper entitled “A plasmonic nano-antenna with double-layer molybdenum disulfide for high-efficiency hydrogen splitting.”
 
Increasing efficiency by eating spinach
 
Yen explained that when the nano-antenna captures light, this antenna generates a plasmonic oscillation. Plasmons are the collective oscillating behavior of free electrons on a metal-dielectric surface. When the distance between the two metals is on the nanometer scale, the collective oscillation of the electrons strengthens the electrical field, which facilitates the capturing of more light and produce an efficient hydrogen-splitting reaction.
 
“It is like when Popeye the Sailor eats spinach!”, explained Yen. Once the plasmonic nano-antenna and the double-layer molybdenum disulfide are combined, there is an amazing effect. Yen explained that there are two key points to improving the efficiency of hydrogen splitting. The first is that once the layout of the nano-antenna has been optimized, this optimized nano-antenna can produce a super-strong plasmon with a quadrupole reasonance. Second, the large surface-area of molybdenum disulfide makes this method more commercially viable. This research has major implications for the green energy industry.
 
The magic of Taiwan
 
Team member said that the academic atmosphere at NTHU is very conducive to her research; in addition, she also enjoys the living environment in Taiwan. Although she also gained admission to top graduate programs in the United States and South Korea, on the advice of one of her classmates, she chose to enroll at NTHU. With her suggestion, now Sriram’s younger sister is studying for a master's degree at NTHU’s Department of Economics, and she hopes to work in Taiwan after graduation.
 
Sriram said that her parents have always told her that no matter where she goes, it’s safer to go with a companion. But she has found that in Taiwan it’s safe to go by herself pretty much anywhere, and if she gets sick, she can always count on receiving help from her classmates and teachers. Sriram also said that Taiwan has a sort of magic that makes her feel safe and peaceful. She also mentioned that she knows lots of other students who studied in Taiwan; after graduation they went to work in Europe or the United States, but always ended up missing Taiwan.
 
In love with research
 
Jiang Ruihan, another doctoral student in Yen’s team, recently completed a paper on optical probes, which has appeared in the top US journal Nano Letters. Jiang has developed a method for enhancing both the optical and topological resolutions of nano-detection technology by up to 10 nm, which can be applied to such areas as material analysis, disease detection, and the observation of human gene sequences. Patents for this technology have been applied for in China, America, and Europe, and commercial applications are expected in the near future.
 
Jiang loves research. In 2016, she won third place in the Materials Innovation Contest of the Materials Research Society. She said that her research was completed in cooperation with Academia Sinica and the Industrial Technology Research Institute, and that she plans to remain in research after graduation.
 


A research team led by Prof. Yen Ta-jen of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering has recently had its work published in Advanced Energy Materials.

A research team led by Prof. Yen Ta-jen of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering has recently had its work published in Advanced Energy Materials.








Yen’s research team has found a way to increase the efficiency of water splitting by using a plasmonic nano-antenna.

Yen’s research team has found a way to increase the efficiency of water splitting by using a plasmonic nano-antenna.

Yen (center) with his doctoral students  (left) and Jiang Ruihan (right).

Yen (center) with his doctoral students (left) and Jiang Ruihan (right).

Sriram said that the academic atmosphere at NTHU is very conducive to her research and that she enjoys living in Taiwan.

Sriram said that the academic atmosphere at NTHU is very conducive to her research and that she enjoys living in Taiwan.

 

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