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Finding an efficient solar water splitting method to mine electron-rich hydrogen for clean power has been thwarted by the poor performance of hematite. But by 're-growing' the mineral's surface, a smoother version of hematite doubled electrical yield, opening a new door to energy-harvesting artificial photosynthesis, according to a report published online today in the journal Nature Communications.

Re-grown hematite proved to be a better power generating anode, producing a record low turn-on voltage that enabled the researchers to be the first to use earth-abundant hematite and silicon as the sole light absorbers in artificial photosynthesis, said Boston College associate professor of chemistry Dunwei Wang, a lead author of the report.

The new hydrogen harvesting process achieved an overall efficiency of 0.91 percent, a 'modest' mark in and of itself, but the first 'meaningful efficiency ever measured by hematite and amorphous silicon, two of the most abundant elements on Earth,' the team reported.

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