Scientists made it cheaper to produce hydrogen from water

June 28, 2016, KTH Royal Institute of Technology
Scientists in Sweden just made it cheaper to produce hydrogen from water
Electrocatalytic water splitting is about to get less costly, thanks to research at KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

A hydrogen-fuel economy could finally become a reality with the recent discovery of a cheap, stable and efficient means of getting hydrogen from water.

If a cheap, stable and efficient way could be found to produce hydrogen from water, a hydrogen-fuel economy could finally become a reality. 

Scientists at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm now report that they have unlocked one major barrier to exploiting this .

Because the best-performing catalysts for electrochemical oxidation, or "water splitting", are expensive precious metals, the research team led by KTH Professor Licheng Sun is one of many worldwide searching for cheaper alternatives. Sun had earlier developed molecular catalysts for (Nature Chem. 2012, 4, 418) with an efficiency approaching that of natural photosynthesis. 

Last week his team reported in Nature Communications that it has discovered that a new material composed of common earth-abundant elements could be used as a for water splitting, which could help change the economics of large scale hydrogen fuel production. 

Researcher Ke Fan says that the new material is a monolayered double hydroxide involving nickel and vanadium, which offers a state-of-art electrocatalyst for water oxidation. The low-cost, highly efficient nickel-vanadium monolayer outperforms other electrocatalysts that are composed of non-precious materials, Fan says. And it offers a competitive, cheap alternative to catalysts that rely on more expensive, precious , such as iridium oxide (IrO2) or ruthenium oxide (RuO2).

"This is the first time that the metal, vanadium, has been used to dope nickel hydroxide to form a water oxidation catalyst, and it works very well—even beyond our expectations," Fan says. "No doubt this material can greatly expand the scope of non-precious metal elements of electrocatalysts, and it opens new areas for ."

One possibility the discovery raises is large-scale production of using Sun's catalyst.

The material possesses a layered structure with monolayer nickel-vanadium oxygen polyhedron connected together with a thickness below 1 nanometer, says researcher Hong Chen. 

"This monolayer feature not only increases the active surface area, but also enhances the electron transfer within the material," Chen says.

Sun expects the research to "open a new area of low-cost water oxidation catalysts, featuring stability and efficiencies that equal or even surpass some of today's best catalysts including RuO2 and IrO2."

Explore further: Carbon leads the way in clean energy

More information: Ke Fan et al. Nickel–vanadium monolayer double hydroxide for efficient electrochemical water oxidation, Nature Communications (2016). DOI: 10.1038/ncomms11981

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8 comments

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Nik_2213
5 / 5 (2) Jun 28, 2016
Bravo !

Will it also work in a fuel-cell ??
Shootist
1.7 / 5 (6) Jun 28, 2016
Hydrogen is NOT an energy source, it is an energy sink. There are no hydrogen mines.
gkam
1 / 5 (4) Jun 30, 2016
The Universe is full of it. It is the most common element in the Universe.
Whydening Gyre
4.2 / 5 (5) Jun 30, 2016
Just a small comment on the ubiquity of Hydrogen -
Estrogen - c18h24o2
Testosterone -c19h2802
Difference -c1h4
Methane.
shavera
4.6 / 5 (10) Jun 30, 2016
Shootist: you are... kind of correct. It does take energy to get hydrogen. However, when we recombine the hydrogen to get water, we get some of that energy back. What hydrogen allows is not a means of producing electricity on powerplant scales, exactly, but a means of transporting an energy-dense substance around with you.

For example, it takes batteries a long time to charge, and they don't have a lot of energy density to begin with, compared to, say, gasoline. Thus it's easier in some ways to use gasoline to fuel cars. If you could replace the gasoline combustion with hydrogen combustion or fuel-cell electricity production, then you'd have a good balance of energy density and reduced carbon emissions.

So we really need one of 2 solutions. We can let the sun provide the energy to split water (photocatalytic production) or we can create catalysts that lower the energy we need to provide to split it, improving efficiency. This is at least one of those possibilities
HeloMenelo
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 03, 2016
it's going to be hard for bonobo shootist aka antisciencegorilla to comprehend what you just wrote... i know, you made it as simple as possible, but i'm sure he's trying... :)
Sonhouse
5 / 5 (1) Jul 04, 2016
The main question is overall efficiency. If you get H2 from a 3% process like high school electrolysis, yo put in 100 watts and get out 3. It would be nice to reverse those numbers, put in 3 watts and get out 100...Of course that is just a dream and the ultimate answer is going to be a combination of renewables and fusion. Dr. Whyte of MIT just gave an excellent talk about recent developments in fusion

http://www.tedxbe...s-whyte/

This is a short talk about MIT developments of fusion. There is a much longer talk but I can't find it right now.
DonCarloFantasia
Jul 04, 2016
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