The process of creating hydrogen from water for renewable energy production just got a little bit easier thanks to researchers at Washington State University.
Professors Yuehe Lin and Scott Beckman at Washington State’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, have developed a catalyst from low-cost materials that outperformed catalysts made from precious metals that are commonly used for hydrogen creation.
The research team added nanoparticles of relatively inexpensive copper to a cobalt-based framework to create a cheaper and more efficient catalyst.
“The research team has provided a new perspective in designing and improving non-precious metal-based catalyst for hydrogen production,” said Lin. “This catalyst will pave the way for the development of high-performance, electrolysis-based hydrogen production applications.”
Energy conversation is a key component to the clean energy economy because solar and wind sources only produce power intermittently and there is a critical need for ways to store and save the electricity they create.
The research team was able to store renewable energy using the excess electricity generated from renewables to split water into oxygen and hydrogen, in which the hydrogen can be then fed into fuel-cell vehicles.
“Hydrogen production by electrolysis of water is the greenest way to convert electricity to chemical fuel,” Junhua Song, a WSU Ph.D. student, who synthesized the catalyst and performed most of the experimental work, said in a statement.
To create the catalyst the researchers used both theoretical modeling and experimental assessments to demonstrate and fine tune the catalyst’s effectiveness.
Currently, industries have not widely used the water splitting process because of the cost of precious metal catalysts—usually platinum or ruthenium—that are required. Another issue is many of the methods to split water also require too much energy or the required materials breakdown too quickly.
However, if the Washington State team is able to secure additional funding they hope to scale up their work to improve the new catalyst’s stability and efficiency.
The work is published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.