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A New Electrocatalyst Massively Improves the Commercial Viability of Green Hydrogen

Turning ordinary nickel and cobalt into key pathways for mass producing hydrogen.

Researchers from Curtin University identified a more efficient and affordable electrocatalyst to make green hydrogen from water, a press statement reveals. The new material has the potential to enable green hydrogen production at an unprecedented scale.

Scientists have typically used precious metal catalysts, such as platinum to accelerate the separation of water into hydrogen and oxygen. The Curtin team found that by adding nickel and cobalt to cheaper catalysts, they could enhance their performance, making them worth exploring as a commercially viable alternative. The researchers published the results of their findings in the journal Nano Energy.

"Our research essentially saw us take two-dimensional iron-sulfur nanocrystals, which don’t usually work as catalysts for the electricity-driven reaction that gets hydrogen from water, and add small amounts of nickel and cobalt ions," said lead researcher Dr. Guohua Jia. "When we did this it completely transformed the poor-performing iron-sulfur into a viable and efficient catalyst."

Green hydrogen bolsters the fight against climate change

Jia explains that the materials used during the research teams' experiment are more abundant and therefore more affordable. They are also more efficient than ruthenium oxide, the current benchmark material. "Our findings not only broaden the existing "palette" of possible particle combinations, but also introduce a new, efficient catalyst that may be useful in other applications. It also opens new avenues for future research in the energy sector, putting Australia at the forefront of renewable and clean energy research and applications."

Other countries such as France are also making concerted efforts to improve their green hydrogen production. Green hydrogen firm Lhyfe and French engineering school Centrale Nantes recently announced they would open the world's first offshore green hydrogen production plant off the coast of Le Croisic, France. Such efforts will bolster the uptake of hydrogen fuel, which is increasingly being utilized as an alternative to fossil fuels in a bid to turn the tide on the worst effects of climate change. Next, the Curtin researchers hope to conduct further tests with a view to testing the commercial viability of their electrocatalysts. Jia feels that more effort is needed from officials in Australia to improve on the figure of 21 percent of energy coming from renewables in the national energy market. 

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