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Researchers at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have shown for the first time that a cheap catalyst can split water and generate hydrogen gas for hours on end in the harsh environment of a commercial device.
The electrolyzer technology, which is based on a polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM), has potential for large-scale hydrogen production powered by renewable energy, but it has been held back in part by the high cost of the precious metal catalysts, like platinum and iridium, needed to boost the efficiency of the chemical reactions.
Study - Way - Solution - Researchers - Today
This study points the way toward a cheaper solution, the researchers reported today in Nature Nanotechnology.
"Hydrogen gas is a massively important industrial chemical for making fuel and fertilizer, among other things," said Thomas Jaramillo, director of the SUNCAT Center for Interface Science and Catalysis, who led the research team. "It's also a clean, high-energy-content molecule that can be used in fuel cells or to store energy generated by variable power sources like solar and wind. But most of the hydrogen produced today is made with fossil fuels, adding to the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. We need a cost-effective way to produce it with clean energy."
Work - Years - Alternatives - Metal - Catalysts
There's been extensive work over the years to develop alternatives to precious metal catalysts for PEM systems. Many have been shown to work in a laboratory setting, but Jaramillo said that to his knowledge this is the first to demonstrate high performance in a commercial electrolyzer. The device was manufactured by a PEM electrolysis research site and factory in Connecticut for Nel Hydrogen, the world's oldest and biggest manufacturer of electrolyzer equipment.
Electrolysis works much like a battery in reverse: Rather than generating electricity, it uses electrical current to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The reactions that generate hydrogen and oxygen gas...
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