Some of the aircraft of the future will certainly run on hydrogen, so it is vital that it be cheap and easy to produce. Physicians at the University of Houston have built a catalyst for water decomposition from readily available and inexpensive raw materials. Their device is much more efficient and stable than before, and as a result, it can play a major role in the process of water-based hydrogen production.
“Hydrogen is the cleanest and largest source of energy available on Earth,” said Paul Chu, founder and lead scientist at the university’s Superconductor Center. And water could be the most abundant source of hydrogen if we could effectively separate hydrogen from the oxygen that is strongly bound to it. Exactly such a method is reported in the Journal of the American Academy of Sciences, PNAS, by Chu and colleagues, Zhifeng Ren and Shuo Chen. Their catalysts used in the process lack the usual expensive materials, iridium, platinum or ruthenium. Iron-containing metaphosphate was used instead of hard-to-obtain materials to coat nickel foam. The catalyst performed well during the tests and was stable for more than 20 hours. “There are catalysts with quite exceptional performance,” notes Zhifeng Ren, “that can only be used for an hour or two. It makes no sense. ” One of the biggest problems for the world’s green energy industry is that intermittently generated electricity should somehow be stored so that it can be used when it is needed. Hydrogen would be an ideal candidate for this, but there is a lack of a cost-effective and efficient solution for producing the material. The new catalyst can help in this, if it can be produced in industrial quantities.