Splitting water to make hydrogen requires no fossil fuels and emits no greenhouse gases. But scientists have yet to develop an affordable, active water splitter with catalysts capable of working at industrial scales.
"It's been a constant pursuit for decades to make low-cost electrocatalysts with high activity and long durability," Dai said. "When we found out that a nickel-based catalyst is as effective as platinum, it came as a complete surprise."
Saving energy and money
The discovery was made by Stanford graduate student Ming Gong, co-lead author of the study. "Ming discovered a nickel-metal/nickel-oxide structure that turns out to be more active than pure nickel metal or pure nickel oxide alone," Dai said. "This novel structure favors hydrogen electrocatalysis, but we still don't fully understand the science behind it."
The nickel/nickel-oxide catalyst significantly lowers the voltage required to split water, which could eventually save hydrogen producers billions of dollars in electricity costs, according to Gong. His next goal is to improve the durability of the device.
"The electrodes are fairly stable, but they do slowly decay over time," he said. "The current device would probably run for days, but weeks or months would be preferable. That goal is achievable based on my most recent results."
The researchers also plan to develop a water splitter than runs on electricity produced by solar energy.
"Hydrogen is an ideal fuel for powering vehicles, buildings and storing renewable energy on the grid," said Dai. "We're very glad that we were able to make a catalyst that's very act
|Contact: Mark Shwartz|