Discovery could be a game-changer for clean hydrogen production


Research from Curtin University has identified a new, cheaper and more efficient electrocatalyst for making green hydrogen from water that could one day open up new avenues for large-scale clean energy production.

Typically, scientists use catalysts based on precious metals, such as platinum, to speed up the reaction of breaking water into hydrogen and oxygen. Today, Curtin’s research has shown that adding nickel and cobalt to cheaper and previously inefficient catalysts improves their performance, reducing the energy required to separate water and increasing hydrogen yield.

Lead researcher Dr Guohua Jia, from Curtin’s School of Molecular and Life Sciences, said the discovery could have far-reaching implications for the sustainable production of green fuel in the future.

“Our research basically allowed us to take two-dimensional iron-sulfur nanocrystals, which generally don’t work as catalysts for the electrical reaction that obtains hydrogen from water, and add small amounts of nickel ions and cobalt. When we did that, it completely transformed the poorly performing iron-sulfur into a viable and efficient catalyst, ”said Dr Jia.

“The use of these more abundant materials is cheaper and more efficient than the current reference material, ruthenium oxide, which is derived from the element ruthenium and is expensive.

“Our results not only expand the existing ‘palette’ of possible particle combinations, but also introduce an effective new catalyst that may be useful in other applications.

“It also opens up new avenues for future research in the energy sector, placing Australia at the forefront of renewable and clean energy research and applications.”

Dr Jia said the next steps would be to expand and test the team’s work on a larger scale to test its commercial viability.

“Only 21% of energy is produced from renewables in the domestic energy market, which is a clear indication that more effort is needed from Australia to switch from fossil fuels to electricity. ‘clean energy,’ said Dr Jia.

“But this change is only possible when the knowledge of the research sector is translated into concrete solutions and applications in the energy sector.”

Javaid S, Xu X, Chen W, et al. Ni2 + / Co2 + doped Au-Fe7S8 nanoplatelets with exceptionally high oxygen evolution reaction activity. Nano energy. 2021; 89: 106463. doi: 10.1016 / j.nanoen.2021.106463

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