ERC grant to generate hydrogen through solar energy awarded to NOVA FCT researcher


Manuel João Mendes, a researcher at CENIMAT and professor at NOVA FCT's Department of Materials Science, has secured 2 million euros in funding from the prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant.

The ERC Consolidator Grant, a component of the European Horizon Europe programme, supports individual projects by experienced science researchers with over seven years of expertise. In this round, which saw 2130 applicants, 627 million euros will be distributed among 308 researchers, including three from Portugal. Notably, NOVA FCT's project, X-STREAM, led by Manuel João Mendes, is among the awardees.

The project, 'Power-to-X: STREAMing Hydrogen from 3-Band Solar Cells boosted with Photonic Management,' abbreviated as 'X-STREAM,' offers a sustainable solution for generating and capturing energy through photovoltaic systems. The prototype aims to store solar energy by producing hydrogen in a more efficient, convenient, and adaptable manner for various applications. The funding of 2 million euros is to be applied over a period of five years.

In detail, X-STREAM introduces a potential breakthrough in energy capture, leveraging enhanced solar cells with light management. It integrates two innovations: a single three-band photovoltaic system that exploits a broader solar spectral range, resulting in a 50% increase in efficiency, near the maximum limit of three cells simultaneously; and the combination of photovoltaic and electrochemical cells, offering a 30% more efficient conversion of solar energy into hydrogen through water splitting.

"Hydrogen is one of the most promising energy vectors we have at our disposal, with the particularity that it doesn't involve the emission of harmful gases. There are some solutions for producing hydrogen using solar energy, but this project presents a more efficient, practical and sustainable system. Energy is a major concern for the European community, and this grant will enable the development of a prototype that could change the paradigm in solar energy capture and hydrogen production through photovoltaic systems", explains Manuel Mendes.

"The winners of the Consolidator Grant represent some of the best European research. It's disappointing that we can't support all the deserving projects simply due to budgetary constraints; we've identified around 100 proposals as excellent that won't receive funding. We need to collectively advocate for greater investment in research and innovation. Our common goal must be to ensure that no brilliant idea goes unfunded in Europe and that no promising career goes unrealized", asserts Maria Leptin, President of the European Research Council.