Nav: Home

Improved water splitting advances renewable energy conversion

October 25, 2016

PULLMAN, Wash. - Washington State University researchers have found a way to more efficiently create hydrogen from water - an important key in making renewable energy production and storage viable.

The researchers, led by professors Yuehe Lin and Scott Beckman in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, have developed a catalyst from low cost materials. It performs as well as or better than catalysts made from precious metals that are used for the process.

The work is published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.

Storing clean energy

Energy conversion is a key to the clean energy economy. Because solar and wind sources produce power only intermittently, there is a critical need for ways to store and save the electricity they create.

One of the most promising ideas for storing renewable energy is to use the excess electricity generated from renewables to split water into oxygen and hydrogen; the hydrogen can then be fed into fuel-cell vehicles.

"Hydrogen production by electrolysis of water is the greenest way to convert electricity to chemical fuel," said Junhua Song, a WSU Ph.D. student who synthesized the catalyst and performed most of the experimental work.

Energy, materials prohibitively expensive

Industries have not widely used the water splitting process, however, because of the prohibitive cost of the precious metal catalysts that are required - usually platinum or ruthenium.

Many of the methods to split water also require too much energy, or the required materials break down too quickly. Instead, industries generally use a fossil-fuel based process to produce hydrogen for fuel cells, which generates harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

For their catalyst, the WSU research team added nanoparticles of relatively inexpensive copper to a cobalt-based framework. The new catalyst was able to conduct electricity better than the commonly used precious metal catalysts. It produced oxygen better than existing commercial catalysts and produced hydrogen at a comparable rate.

Catalyst modeling, experimentation employed

The researchers used both theoretical modeling and experimental assessments to demonstrate and fine tune their catalyst's effectiveness.

"The modeling helped the researchers gain understanding at the atomic level of how the copper atoms improve the catalyst, which helped in precisely choosing and tuning the elements to enhance performance," said Beckman.

"The research team has provided a new perspective in designing and improving non-precious metal-based catalysts for hydrogen production," said Lin. "This catalyst will pave the way for the development of high-performance, electrolysis-based hydrogen production applications."

The researchers are looking for external funding to scale up their work. They hope to improve the catalyst's stability and efficiency.

The work is in keeping with WSU's Grand Challenges, a suite of research initiatives aimed at large societal issues. It is particularly relevant to the challenge of sustainable resources and its theme of meeting energy needs while protecting the environment.
-end-


Washington State University

Related Hydrogen Articles:

Hydrogen energy at the root of life
A team of international researchers in Germany, France and Japan is making progress on answering the question of the origin of life.
Hydrogen alarm for remote hydrogen leak detection
Tomsk Polytechnic University jointly with the University of Chemistry and Technology of Prague proposed new sensors based on widely available optical fiber to ensure accurate detection of hydrogen molecules in the air.
Preparing for the hydrogen economy
In a world first, University of Sydney researchers have found evidence of how hydrogen causes embrittlement of steels.
Hydrogen boride nanosheets: A promising material for hydrogen carrier
Researchers at Tokyo Institute of Technology, University of Tsukuba, and colleagues in Japan report a promising hydrogen carrier in the form of hydrogen boride nanosheets.
World's fastest hydrogen sensor could pave the way for clean hydrogen energy
Hydrogen is a clean and renewable energy carrier that can power vehicles, with water as the only emission.
Chemical hydrogen storage system
Hydrogen is a highly attractive, but also highly explosive energy carrier, which requires safe, lightweight and cheap storage as well as transportation systems.
Observing hydrogen's effects in metal
Microscopy technique could help researchers design safer reactor vessels or hydrogen storage tanks.
The 'Batman' in hydrogen fuel cells
In a study published in Nature on Jan. 31, researchers at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) report advances in the development of hydrogen fuel cells that could increase its application in vehicles, especially in extreme temperatures like cold winters.
Paving the way for more efficient hydrogen cars
Hydrogen-powered vehicles emit only water vapor from their tailpipes, offering a cleaner alternative to fossil-fuel-based transportation.
New catalyst produces cheap hydrogen
QUT chemistry researchers have discovered cheaper and more efficient materials for producing hydrogen for the storage of renewable energy that could replace current water-splitting catalysts.
More Hydrogen News and Hydrogen Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.