AMOLF and DIFFER work together on nanomaterials for sustainable fuels

Published on March 24, 2015
24 March 2015
The FOM institutes AMOLF and DIFFER are consolidating their expertise in nanophotonics and energy research in a new strategic FOM programme. The programme can make an important contribution to the development of sustainable solar fuel cells and has a budget of 1.5 million euros.

Eric Garnett (Amolf, left) and Andrea Baldi (DIFFER, right) start a new strategic programme on nanomaterials for sustainable fuels

The new research programme is called ' Photosynthesis of nanomaterials: developing nanostructured photocatalysts for solar fuel generation using light'. By combining the strengths of the two FOM institutes, scientists are making optimal use of AMOLF’s expertise in nanophotonics research and DIFFER’s expertise in energy research. Group leader Andrea Baldi will supervise the research at DIFFER. AMOLF group leader Erik Garnett is the programme leader.

Solar fuel

Sustainable energy sources such as solar cells or wind turbines have a highly variable yield. It is therefore important that the energy from these sources can be stored, for example in so-called solar fuels. Solar fuels, which include hydrogen (H2) and methane (CH4), are produced by converting sunlight into chemical bonds. This happens in photo-electrochemical cells. The aim of the new research programme is to develop methods to produce the next generation of materials for the solar fuel cells.

New nanostructures

Photo-electrochemical cells require materials that can absorb sunlight efficiently. In addition, the materials must be able to function as a catalyst in the chemical reactions that convert sunlight into solar fuels. Materials that are constructed at the nanoscale can be used for these purposes. The scale of these materials is about one hundred nanometres, or a hundred billionth of a metre.

When light falls on the nanomaterials various interesting phenomena occur. For example there are places on the material where the temperature, the pressure, or the strength of electric fields strongly increases. The researchers want to use these surprising phenomena to produce new types of nanomaterials that can improve the solar fuel production.


- Energy research at FOM
- Fusion and solar fuels: energy research at FOM-DIFFER
- Biophysics and nanophysics at FOM-AMOLF


The new research programme is embedded in the NWO proposition for the Top Sector Energy 2014-2015 and falls within the NWO theme Sustainable Energy.

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