UNSW scientists have developed an efficient oxygen-producing electrode for splitting water that can be scaled up to produce hydrogen – a clean energy fuel
SYDNEY chemists may have removed one of the main hurdles to the “hydrogen economy” after developing what is believed to be the world’s most efficient water-splitting electrode.
The conductor, outlined overnight in an article in the journal Nature Communications, is made entirely of nickel and iron. Its inventors say it outperforms state-of-the-art electrodes based on iridium and ruthenium — metals so rare that only a few dozen tonnes are produced globally each year.
The article’s co-author, Chuan Zhao, said the cost and sustainability of these elements was a big impediment to industrial-scale electrolysis of water.
“Our electrode is made entirely of non-precious metals,” said Dr Zhao, of the University of NSW.
“I don’t see why this cannot be used in industry. There are no major hurdles to producing this electrode and using it in an industrial electrolyser.”
Hydrogen has long been considered preferable to carbon-based fuel sources because it produces water when it burns. Theoretically, it can fuel cars and power stations, heat homes and store excess electricity without emitting toxins or warming the atmosphere.
But hydrogen does not exist naturally in its pure form and the cleanest way of producing it — by splitting water into its constituent elements of hydrogen and water — is extremely expensive and energy-intensive.
The new approach, which Dr Zhao described as a proof of concept, addresses both problems by using inexpensive elements and reducing the amount of electricity needed.
The Latest on: Hydrogen economy
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