The transition to a hydrogen-based economy just got one notch easier thanks to the discovery of a new catalysts by researchers with the University of Wisconsin.
A hydrogen-based economy would be ideal for zero-carbon emission future. With no residual waste being blown in the atmosphere and no carbon fuelling climate change, energy delivered by hydrogen would be cleaner.
Among other impediments, the technology needed to derive hydrogen from water is expensive. Prohibitively expensive. While hydrogen-cells are already researched in the automaking industry and others, hydrogen-based energy delivery could greatly benefit other industries as well.
When burned, hydrogen creates heat. Used accordingly, it derives electricity. It’s also an efficient heat storing means.
The great obstacle to implementing hydrogen-based technologies that could revolutionize energy delivery and our economy is the cost of noble metals, resistant to oxidation processes. Platinum is the most known example of a noble metal that could be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen when used in combination with catalysts.
The research team of the University of Wisconsin, composed of Miguel Caban-Acevedo and Michael Stone, and led by Professor Song Jin, discovered a panacea for the cost-prohibiting noble metals.
Using sulfur and phosphorus in combination with cobalt is the low-cost alternative for the fast-forward path to a hydrogen-based economy in the future. Cobalt is far cheaper than any of the noble metals. Price-wise, it ranks 1,000 times below the cheapest of the noble metals, which makes it a viable alternative in the water splitting process.
“We have demonstrated a proof-of-concept device for using this cobalt catalyst and solar energy to drive hydrogen generation, which also has the best reported efficiency for systems that rely only on inexpensive catalysts and materials to convert directly from sunlight to hydrogen,”
stated Professor Song Jin.
Water splitting is currently done using electricity. In order to offset the environmental costs of this procedure, researchers are looking at processes that involve solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.
The findings of the research team are published in the journal Nature Materials.
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