Navigation Links
New catalyst could cut cost of making hydrogen fuel

MADISON A discovery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison may represent a significant advance in the quest to create a "hydrogen economy" that would use this abundant element to store and transfer energy.

Theoretically, hydrogen is the ultimate non-carbon, non-polluting fuel for storing intermittent energy from the wind or sun. When burned for energy, hydrogen produces water but no carbon dioxide. Practically speaking, producing hydrogen from water, and then storing and using the gas, have proven difficult.

The new study, now published online at the Journal of the American Chemical Society, introduces a new catalyst structure that can facilitate the use of electricity to produce hydrogen gas from water.

Significantly, the catalyst avoids the rare, expensive metal platinum that is normally required for this reaction. (Catalysts speed up chemical reactions without themselves being consumed.)

The material under study, molybdenum disulfide, contains two common elements, notes Mark Lukowski, a Ph.D. student working with associate professor Song Jin in the UW-Madison chemistry department. "Most people have tried to reduce the cost of the catalyst by making small particles that use less platinum, but here we got rid of the platinum altogether and still got reasonably high performance."

The research group has produced milligram quantities of the catalyst, "but in principle you could scale this up," says Lukowski. "Molybdenum disulfide is a commercially available product. To control purity and structure, we go through the trouble of synthesizing it from the bottom up, but you could buy it today."

To make the new material, Lukowski and Jin deposit nanostructures of molybdenum disulfide on a disk of graphite and then apply a lithium treatment to create a different structure with different properties.

Just as carbon can form diamond for jewelry and graphite for writing, molybdenum disulfide can be a semiconductor or a metallic phase, depending on structure. When the compound is grown on the graphite, it is a semiconductor, but it becomes metallic after the lithium treatment. Lukowski and Jin discovered that the metallic phase has far greater catalytic properties.

"Like graphite, which is made up of a stack of sheets that easily separate, molybdenum disulfide is made up of individual sheets that can come apart, and previous studies have shown that the catalytically active sites are located along the edges of the sheets," says Lukowski.

"The lithium treatment both causes the semiconducting-to-metallic phase change and separates the sheets, creating more edges. We have taken away the limitation from molybdenum disulfide and made the active sites both more pervasive and more reactive."

The experiment, supported by the U.S. Department of Energy's Basic Energy Sciences program, is a proof of concept for a new approach for improving these catalysts, says Jin.

"Even though the efficiency of producing hydrogen has been greatly improved, it is still not as good as what platinum can achieve," he says. "The next steps include finding ways to further improve the performance by optimizing all aspects of the process and exploring related compounds. There are many hurdles to achieving a hydrogen economy, but the advantages in efficiency and pollution reduction are so significant that we must push ahead."

As technological advances put further strain on the supply of platinum and other rare elements, using common elements is a major advantage, Jin stresses. "The elements we use are cheap and abundant in earth's crust, and the raw material is already commercially available at low cost. Building on this discovery and new understanding, we would like to further improve these materials to achieve the efficient production of hydrogen without using precious metals."


Contact: Song Jin
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Related biology news :

1. Diamond catalyst shows promise in breaching age-old barrier
2. Metal-free catalyst outperforms platinum in fuel cell
3. Mysterious catalyst explained
4. DNA catalysts do the work of protein enzymes
5. Catalysts that produce green fuel
6. Painting with catalysts: Nano-engineered materials for detoxifying water by use of sunlight
7. Synthetic molecule first electricity-making catalyst to use iron to split hydrogen gas
8. Low-cost nanosheet catalyst discovered to split hydrogen from water
9. KIT: Processes at the surface of catalysts
10. Could a diet high in fish and flax help prevent broken hips?
11. Unexpected discovery of the ways cells move could boost understanding of complex diseases
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/26/2015)... Research and Markets ( ) has announced the ... and Patent Infringement Risk Analysis" report to their ... Fingerprint sensors using capacitive technology represent a fast ... Idex forecasts an increase of 360% of the number ... the fingerprint sensor market between 2014 and 2017 (source ...
(Date:11/20/2015)... OXFORD, Connecticut , November 20, 2015 ... biometric authentication company focused on the growing mobile commerce ... its CEO, Gino Pereira , was recently interviewed ... The interview will air on this weekend on ... Bloomberg Latin America . --> NXTD ) ...
(Date:11/19/2015)... MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. , Nov. 19, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... authentication market, Frost & Sullivan recognizes BIO-key with the ... Strategy Leadership. Each year, Frost & Sullivan presents this ... comprehensive product line catering to the needs of the ... which the product line meets and expands on customer ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... Oregon , November 25, 2015 ... Market Research Report is a professional and in-depth ... industry.      (Logo: ) ... overview of the industry including definitions, classifications, applications ... is provided for the international markets including development ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Nov. 24, 2015  Asia-Pacific (APAC) holds the ... (CRO) market. The trend of outsourcing to low-cost ... but higher volume share for the region in ... however, margins in the CRO industry will improve. ... ( ), finds that the market ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... -- Cepheid (NASDAQ: CPHD ) today announced that ... and invited investors to participate via webcast. ... 1, 2015 at 11.00 a.m. Eastern Time --> ... 1, 2015 at 11.00 a.m. Eastern Time --> ... NY      Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at 11.00 ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Nov. 24, 2015 /CNW/ - iCo Therapeutics ("iCo" or ... financial results for the quarter ended September 30, ... Canadian dollars and presented under International Financial Reporting ... ," said Andrew Rae , President ... iCo-008 are not only value enriching for this ...
Breaking Biology Technology: