Scientists develop new material to turn water into hydrogen fuel


Researchers at the University of Illinois has developed a catalyst that could help split water molecules to produce hydrogen fuel.

The research report, published in the journal Angewandte Chemie reveals that an electrocatalytic material made from mixing metal compounds with perchloric acid could break the bonds between hydrogen and oxygen in a very sustainable manner.

"Much of the previous work was performed with electrolyzers made from just two elements—one metal and oxygen. In a recent study, we found if a compound has two metal elements—yttrium and ruthenium—and oxygen, the rate of water-splitting reaction increased," said Hong Yang, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Illinois and the lead author of the study.

In the initial phase of the study, researchers tried to make a new electrolytic material by using different acids and heating temperatures and determined whether it increased the rate of the water-splitting reaction. Researchers noted that the use of perchloric acid as a catalyst changed the physical nature of yttrium ruthenate.

The new porous material developed by the team named pyrochlore oxide of yttrium ruthenate could split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen at a rate higher than current industry standards. It should be also noted that the new porous material developed is four times more porous than the original yttrium ruthenate and three times that of the iridium and ruthenium oxides used commercially.

"Because of the increased activity it promotes, a porous structure is highly desirable when it comes to electrocatalysts. These pores can be produced synthetically with nanometer-sized templates and substances for making ceramics; however, those can't hold up under the high-temperature conditions needed for making high-quality solid catalysts," added Yang.

Yang also revealed that researchers like these will bring about positive impacts on the production of hydrogen for sustainable energy in the future.

A month ago, a team of researchers at the University of Cambridge invented a new method to create an unlimited source of renewable energy. The study report revealed that a method called artificial photosynthesis could eventually create an unlimited source of energy.

This article was first published on September 29, 2018