“Great Things from Small Things” Top 50 Nanotech Blog – Our Top Posts This Week

Happy Holiday (Labor Day) Weekend Everyone! Here are our Top Posts from this past week … Just in case you missed them! We hope all of you are well and safe and continuing to ‘get back to normal’ as the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020 continues to restrain all of us in one way or another.

Thankfully however, COVID-19 has NOT restricted the Forward Advance of Innovation and Technology Solutions from the small worlds of Nanotechnology – “Great Things from Small Things” – Read and Enjoy and wonderful Holiday Weekend!Team GNT

Carbon Nanotube Second Skin Protects First Responders and Warfighters against Chem, Bio Agents – Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

The same materials (adsorbents or barrier layers) that provide protection in current garments also detrimentally inhibit breathability.

Recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the use of chemical weapons in the Syria conflict have provided a stark reminder of the plethora of chemical and biological threats that soldiers, medical personnel and first responders face during routine and emergency operations. Researchers have developed a smart, breathable fabric designed to protect the wearer against biological and chemical warfare agents. Material of this type could be used in clinical and medical settings as well.

Recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the use of chemical weapons in the Syria conflict have provided a stark reminder of the plethora of chemical and biological threats that soldiers, medical personnel and first responders face during routine and emergency operations.

Read More … https://genesisnanotech.wordpress.com/2020/05/11/carbon-nanotube-second-skin-protects-first-responders-and-warfighters-against-chem-bio-agents-lawrence-livermore-national-laboratory/

MIT: Lighting the Way to Better Battery Technology

Supratim Das is determined to demystify lithium-ion batteries, by first understanding their flaws.  Photo: Lillie Paquette/School of Engineering

Doctoral candidate Supratim Das wants the world to know how to make longer-lasting batteries that charge mobile phones and electric cars.

Supratim Das’s quest for the perfect battery began in the dark. Growing up in Kolkata, India, Das saw that a ready supply of electric power was a luxury his family didn’t have. “I wanted to do something about it,” Das says. Now a fourth-year PhD candidate in MIT chemical engineering who’s months away from defending his thesis, he’s been investigating what causes the batteries that power the world’s mobile phones and electric cars to deteriorate over time.

Lithium-ion batteries, so-named for the movement of lithium ions that make them work, power most rechargeable devices today. The element lithium has properties that allow lithium-ion batteries to be both portable and powerful; the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to scientists who helped develop them in the late 1970s. But despite their widespread use, lithium-ion batteries, essentially a black box during operation, harbor mysteries that prevent scientists from unlocking their full potential. Das is determined to demystify them, by first understanding their flaws.

Read More … https://genesisnanotech.wordpress.com/2020/07/06/mit-lighting-the-way-to-better-battery-technology/

Nuclear Diamond Batteries could disrupt Energy/ Energy Storage as we know it … “Imagine a World where you wouldn’t need to charge your battery for …. Decades!”

Illustration of the NDB Battery in a Most Recognizable ‘18650’ Format

They will blow any energy density comparison out of the water, lasting anywhere from a decade to 28,000 years without ever needing a charge.”

“They will offer higher power density than lithium-ion. They will be nigh-on indestructible and totally safe in an electric car crash.”

And in some applications, like electric cars, they stand to be considerably cheaper than current lithium-ion packs despite their huge advantages.

In the words of Dr. John Shawe-Taylor, UNESCO Chair and University College London Professor: “NDB has the potential to solve the major global issue of carbon emissions in one stroke without the expensive infrastructure projects, energy transportation costs, or negative environmental impacts associated with alternate solutions such as carbon capture at fossil fuel power stations, hydroelectric plants, turbines, or nuclear power stations.

Read More … https://genesisnanotech.wordpress.com/2020/08/25/nano-diamond-self-charging-batteries-could-disrupt-energy-as-we-know-it-imagine-a-world-where-you-wouldnt-need-to-charge-your-battery-for-decades/

“Practical and Viable” Hydrogen Production from Solar – Long Sought Goal of Renewable Energy – Is Close … Oh So Close

Technology developed at the Technion: the oxygen and hydrogen are produced and stored in completely separate cells.

Technion Israel Institute of Technology

Israeli and Italian scientists have developed a renewable energy technology that converts solar energy to hydrogen fuel — and it’s reportedly at the threshold of “practical” viability.The new solar tech would offer a sustainable way to turn water and sunlight into storable energy for fuel cells, whether that stored power feeds into the electrical grid or goes to fuel-cell powered trucks, trains, cars, ships, planes or industrial processes.Think of this research as a sort of artificial photosynthesis, said Lilac Amirav, associate professor of chemistry at the Technion — Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. (If it could be scaled up, the technology could eventually be the basis of “solar factories” in which arrays of solar collectors split water into stores of hydrogen fuel——as well as, for reasons discussed below, one or more other industrial chemicals.)Read More … https://genesisnanotech.wordpress.com/2020/09/02/practical-and-viable-hydrogen-production-from-solar-long-sought-goal-of-renewable-energy-is-close-oh-so-close/

Watch More … The EV ‘Revolution and Evolution’ … Will the Era of the ICE be over in 2025? 2030?

Tony Seba, Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Author and Thought Leader, Lecturer at Stanford University, Keynote The reinvention and connection between infrastructure and mobility will fundamentally disrupt the clean transport model. It will change the way governments and consumers think about mobility, how power is delivered and consumed and the payment models for usage.

“Practical and Viable” Hydrogen Production from Solar – Long Sought Goal of Renewable Energy – Is Close … Oh So Close

Technion Israel Institute of Technology

Israeli and Italian scientists have developed a renewable energy technology that converts solar energy to hydrogen fuel — and it’s reportedly at the threshold of “practical” viability.

The new solar tech would offer a sustainable way to turn water and sunlight into storable energy for fuel cells, whether that stored power feeds into the electrical grid or goes to fuel-cell powered trucks, trains, cars, ships, planes or industrial processes.

Think of this research as a sort of artificial photosynthesis, said Lilac Amirav, associate professor of chemistry at the Technion — Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. (If it could be scaled up, the technology could eventually be the basis of “solar factories” in which arrays of solar collectors split water into stores of hydrogen fuel——as well as, for reasons discussed below, one or more other industrial chemicals.)

“We [start with] a semiconductor that’s very similar to what we have in solar panels,” says Amirav. But rather than taking the photovoltaic route of using sunlight to liberate a current of electrons, the reaction they’re studying harnesses sunlight to efficiently and cost-effectively peel off hydrogen from water molecules.

The big hurdle to date has been that hydrogen and oxygen just as readily recombine once they’re split apart—that is, unless a catalyst can be introduced to the reaction that shunts water’s two component elements away from one another.

Enter the rod-shaped nanoparticles Amirav and co-researchers have developed. The wand-like rods (50-60 nanometers long and just 4.5 nm in diameter) are all tipped with platinum spheres 2–3 nm in diameter, like nano-size marbles fastened onto the ends of drinking straws.

Since 2010, when the team first began publishing papers about such specially tuned nanorods, they’ve been tweaking the design to maximize its ability to extract as much hydrogen and excess energy as possible from “solar-to-chemical energy conversion.”

Which brings us back to those “other” industrial chemicals. Because creating molecular hydrogen out of water also yields oxygen, they realized they had to figure out what to do with that byproduct.

“When you’re thinking about artificial photosynthesis, you care about hydrogen—because hydrogen’s a fuel,” says Amirav. “Oxygen is not such an interesting product. But that is the bottleneck of the process.”

There’s no getting around the fact that oxygen liberated from split water molecules carries energy away from the reaction, too. So, unless it’s harnessed, it ultimately represents just wasted solar energy—which means lost efficiency in the overall reaction.

Technology developed at the Technion: the oxygen and hydrogen are produced and stored in completely separate cells.

Prof. Avner Rothschild from the Faculty of Materials Science and Engineering

Read More About “Hydrogen on Demand Technology” from Technion

So, the researchers added another reaction to the process. Not only does their platinum-tipped nanorod catalyst use solar energy to turn water into hydrogen, it also uses the liberated oxygen to convert the organic molecule benzylamine into the industrial chemical benzaldehyde (commonly used in dyes, flavoring extracts, and perfumes).

All told, the nanorods convert 4.2 percent of the energy of incoming sunlight into chemical bonds. Considering the energy in the hydrogen fuel alone, they convert 3.6 percent of sunlight energy into stored fuel.

These might seem like minuscule figures. But 3.6 percent is still considerably better than the 1-2 percent range that previous technologies had achieved.

And according to the U.S. Department of Energy, 5-10 percent efficiency is all that’s needed to reach what the researchers call the “practical feasibility threshold” for solar hydrogen generation.

Between February and August of this year, Amirav and her colleagues published about the above innovations in the journals NanoEnergy and Chemistry Europe. They also recently presented their research at the fall virtual meeting of the American Chemical Society.

In their presentation, which hinted at future directions for their work, they teased further efficiency improvements courtesy of new new work with AI data mining experts.

“We are looking for alternative organic transformations,” says Amirav. This way, she and her collaborators hope, their solar factories can produce hydrogen fuel plus an array of other useful industrial byproducts.

In the future, their artificial photosynthesis process could yield low-emission energy, plus some beneficial chemical extracts as a “practical” and “feasible” side-effect.

Fuel cells for hydrogen vehicles are lasting longer and longer and … Promising Research from the University of Copenhagen

The new electrocatalyst for hydrogen fuel cells consists of a thin platinum-cobalt alloy network and, unlike the catalysts commonly used today, does not require a carbon carrier. Credit: Gustav Sievers

Roughly 1 billion cars and trucks zoom about the world’s roadways. Only a few run on hydrogen.

This could change after a breakthrough achieved by researchers at the University of Copenhagen.

The breakthrough? A new catalyst that can be used to produce cheaper and far more sustainable hydrogen powered vehicles.

Hydrogen vehicles are a rare sight. This is partly because they rely on a large amount of platinum to serve as a catalyst in their fuel cells—about 50 grams. Typically, vehicles only need about five grams of this rare and precious material. Indeed, only 100 tons of platinum are mined annually, in South Africa.

Now, researchers at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Chemistry have developed a catalyst that doesn’t require such a large quantity of platinum.

“We have developed a catalyst which, in the laboratory, only needs a fraction of the amount of platinum that current  fuel cells for cars do. We are approaching the same amount of platinum as needed for a conventional .

At the same time, the new catalyst is much more stable than the catalysts deployed in today’s hydrogen powered vehicles,” explains Professor Matthias Arenz from the Department of Chemistry.

A paradigm shift for hydrogen vehicles

Sustainable technologies are often challenged by the limited availability of the rare materials that make them possible, which in turn, limits scalability.

Due to this current limitation, it is impossible to simply replace the world’s vehicles with hydrogen models overnight. As such, the new technology a game-changer.

“The new catalyst can make it possible to roll out hydrogen vehicles on a vastly greater scale than could have ever been achieved in the past,” states Professor Jan Rossmeisl, center leader of the Center for High Entropy Alloy Catalysis at UCPH’s Department of Chemistry.

The new catalyst improves fuel cells significantly, by making it possible to produce more horsepower per gram of platinum. This in turn, makes the production of hydrogen  vehicles more sustainable.

More durable, less platinum

Because only the surface of a catalyst is active, as many platinum atoms as possible are needed to coat it. A catalyst must also be durable. Herein lies the conflict.

To gain as much surface area as possible, today’s catalysts are based on -nano-particles which are coated over carbon. Unfortunately, carbon makes catalysts unstable. The new catalyst is distinguished by being carbon-free.

Instead of nano-particles, the researchers have developed a network of nanowires characterized an abundance of surface area and high durability.

“With this breakthrough, the notion of hydrogen vehicles becoming commonplace has become more realistic. It allows them to become cheaper, more sustainable and more durable,” says Jan Rossmeisl.

Dialogue with the automotive industry

The next step for the researchers is to scale up their results so that the technology can be implemented in hydrogen vehicles.

“We are in talks with the  about how this breakthrough can be rolled out in practice. So, things look quite promising,” says Professor Matthias Arenz.

The research results have just been published in Nature Materials, one of the leading scientific journals for materials research. It is the first article in which every researcher at the basic research center, “Center for High Entropy Alloy Catalysis (CHEAC)”, has collaborated.

The center is a so-called Center of Excellence, supported by the Danish National Research Foundation.

“At the center, we develop new materials to create sustainable chemicals and fuels that help society make the chemical industry greener. That it is now possible to scale up the production of hydrogen vehicles, and in a sustainable way, is a major step forward,” says center leader Jan Rossmeisl.

Hyperion’s hydrogen-powered supercar can drive 1,000 miles on a single tank And … Go ‘0’ to 60 in 2+ seconds

The Hyperion XP-1

Hyperion, a California-based company, has unveiled a hydrogen-powered supercar the company hopes will change the way people view hydrogen fuel cell technology. 

The Hyperion XP-1 will be able to drive for up to 1,000 miles on one tank of compressed hydrogen gas and its electric motors will generate more than 1,000 horsepower, according to the company. The all-wheel-drive car can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in a little over two seconds, the company said.

Hydrogen fuel cell cars are electric cars that use hydrogen to generate power inside the car rather than using batteries to store energy. The XP-1 doesn’t combust hydrogen but uses it in fuel cells that combine hydrogen with oxygen from the air in a process that creates water, the vehicle’s only emission, and a stream of electricity to power the car.

The Hyperion XP-1's main purpose is to generate interest in hydrogen power, the company's CEO said.

The Hyperion XP-1’s main purpose is to generate interest in hydrogen power, the company’s CEO said.

The XP-1 has much longer range than a battery-powered electric car because compressed hydrogen has much more power per liter than a battery, Hyperion CEO Angelo Kafantaris explained.

Also, because hydrogen gas is very light, the overall vehicle weighs much less than one packed with heavy batteries. That, in turn, makes the car more energy efficient so that it can go farther and faster.

Many car companies, including HondaToyota, Hyundai and General Motors, have produced hydrogen fuel vehicles for research purposes or for sale in small numbers. 

But the technology is starting to gain more support. Start up truck maker, Nikola, for example, plans to sell hydrogen-powered semis and pickup trucks. Other companies haven’t yet created an exciting car that will capture the public’s attention, though, said Kafantaris.

The biggest challenge facing hydrogen-powered cars has been fueling them. Compared to gasoline or electricity, there’s little hydrogen infrastructure in America. Public charging stations for electric cars are much more plentiful than hydrogen filling stations A Department of Energy map of publicly accessible hydrogen filling stations shows clusters of dots around major California cities and no dots at all throughout nearly all the rest of the country.

Hydrogen is extremely light which helps the Hyperion XP-1's performance.

Hydrogen is extremely light which helps the Hyperion XP-1’s performance.

Hydrogen is the first and simplest element on the periodic table. Colorless and odorless, it has only a single proton at its center with one electron around it. 

While it is the most plentiful element in the universe, hydrogen doesn’t naturally exist by itself. Before it can be used as a fuel, hydrogen has to be broken out of molecules of water, natural gas or other substances. That’s usually done by using electricity to split those larger molecules apart. Energy is then released inside the car when the hydrogen combines again with oxygen. 

The main advantage of hydrogen is that pumping a tank full of hydrogen takes much less time than charging a battery. It only takes three to five minutes to fill the tank on the XP-1 for a 1,000 mile trip, for instance.

Hydrogen gas also isn’t subject to wear and degradation as batteries are, especially when fast-charged, said Kafantaris. The XP-1 does have a battery that acts as a buffer to store electricity generated by the fuel cell, but it’s much smaller than the battery packs used in electric cars.

The real purpose of the Hyperion XP-1 is to generate interest in hydrogen fuel, the company said.

Hyperion already has several operational prototype cars, said Kafantaris. The first production cars are expected to be delivered to customers by the end of next year. Kafantaris did not detail pricing for the car, but indicated that prices will vary depending on the level of performance.

The highest-performing versions, ones capable of producing 1,000 horsepower, could cost in the millions. The company is capping production at 300 examples.

The company is hoping to manufacture the XP-1 somewhere in the Midwest, Kafantaris said. Following the XP-1, the company hopes to make more practical hydrogen-fueled cars for a broader range of customers.

The company also hopes to popularize the idea of hydrogen as an energy medium for vehicles, as well as for other uses, he said. Hyperion has been working with NASA to commercialize various hydrogen technologies that the space agency currently uses and to develop new uses, he said. 

The space agency confirmed to CNN Business that Hyperion has agreements to license a number of NASA technologies.

“Part of what we’re aiming to do is to give a sense of pride for what America has done in the past, through NASA technology, and kind of brings people together around something that everybody can look at and say ‘That’s American, I’m proud of that,” Kafantaris said.

‘Artificial leaf’ concept inspires research into solar-powered fuel production: Rice University

A schematic and electron microscope cross-section show the structure of an integrated, solar-powered catalyst to split water into hydrogen fuel and oxygen. The module developed at Rice University can be immersed into water directly to produce fuel when exposed to sunlight. Credit: Jia Liang/Rice University

Rice University researchers have created an efficient, low-cost device that splits water to produce hydrogen fuel.

The platform developed by the Brown School of Engineering lab of Rice materials scientist Jun Lou integrates catalytic electrodes and  that, when triggered by sunlight, produce electricity. The current flows to the catalysts that turn water into hydrogen and oxygen, with a sunlight-to-hydrogen efficiency as high as 6.7%.

This sort of catalysis isn’t new, but the lab packaged a  layer and the electrodes into a single module that, when dropped into water and placed in sunlight, produces hydrogen with no further input.

The  introduced by Lou, lead author and Rice postdoctoral fellow Jia Liang and their colleagues in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano is a self-sustaining producer of  that, they say, should be simple to produce in bulk.

“The concept is broadly similar to an artificial leaf,” Lou said. “What we have is an integrated module that turns sunlight into electricity that drives an electrochemical reaction. It utilizes water and sunlight to get chemical fuels.”

Perovskites are crystals with cubelike lattices that are known to harvest light. The most efficient perovskite  produced so far achieve an efficiency above 25%, but the materials are expensive and tend to be stressed by light, humidity and heat.

“Jia has replaced the more expensive components, like platinum, in perovskite solar cells with alternatives like carbon,” Lou said. “That lowers the entry barrier for commercial adoption. Integrated devices like this are promising because they create a system that is sustainable. This does not require any external power to keep the module running.”

Liang said the key component may not be the perovskite but the polymer that encapsulates it, protecting the module and allowing to be immersed for long periods.

“Others have developed catalytic systems that connect the solar cell outside the water to immersed electrodes with a wire,” he said. “We simplify the system by encapsulating the perovskite layer with a Surlyn (polymer) film.”

The patterned film allows sunlight to reach the solar cell while protecting it and serves as an insulator between the cells and the electrodes, Liang said.

“With a clever system design, you can potentially make a self-sustaining loop,” Lou said. “Even when there’s no sunlight, you can use stored energy in the form of chemical fuel. You can put the hydrogen and oxygen products in separate tanks and incorporate another module like a fuel cell to turn those fuels back into electricity.”

The researchers said they will continue to improve the encapsulation technique as well as the solar themselves to raise the efficiency of the modules.

More information: Jia Liang et al, A Low-Cost and High-Efficiency Integrated Device toward Solar-Driven Water Splitting, ACS Nano (2020). DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.9b09053

Journal information: ACS Nano

Provided by Rice University

New Catalyst Recycles Greenhouse Gases into Fuel and Hydrogen Gas: KAIST and Rice University

greenhouse gas 1 ImageForNews_27007_15820400184564587

       The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST

Scientists have taken a major step toward a circular carbon economy by developing a long-lasting, economical catalyst that recycles greenhouse gases into ingredients that can be used in fuel, hydrogen gas, and other chemicals. The results could be revolutionary in the effort to reverse global warming, according to the researchers. The study was published on February 14 in Science.

“We set out to develop an effective catalyst that can convert large amounts of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane without failure,” said Cafer T. Yavuz, paper author and associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and of chemistry at KAIST.

The catalyst, made from inexpensive and abundant nickel, magnesium, and molybdenum, initiates and speeds up the rate of reaction that converts carbon dioxide and methane into hydrogen gas. It can work efficiently for more than a month.

This conversion is called ‘dry reforming’, where harmful gases, such as carbon dioxide, are processed to produce more useful chemicals that could be refined for use in fuel, plastics, or even pharmaceuticals. It is an effective process, but it previously required rare and expensive metals such as platinum and rhodium to induce a brief and inefficient chemical reaction.

Other researchers had previously proposed nickel as a more economical solution, but carbon byproducts would build up and the surface nanoparticles would bind together on the cheaper metal, fundamentally changing the composition and geometry of the catalyst and rendering it useless.

“The difficulty arises from the lack of control on scores of active sites over the bulky catalysts surfaces because any refinement procedures attempted also change the nature of the catalyst itself,” Yavuz said.

The researchers produced nickel-molybdenum nanoparticles under a reductive environment in the presence of a single crystalline magnesium oxide. As the ingredients were heated under reactive gas, the nanoparticles moved on the pristine crystal surface seeking anchoring points. The resulting activated catalyst sealed its own high-energy active sites and permanently fixed the location of the nanoparticles — meaning that the nickel-based catalyst will not have a carbon build up, nor will the surface particles bind to one another. (Article continues below **)

Read More from Rice University: Rice reactor turns greenhouse gas into pure liquid fuel

Greenhouse Gas 2 0722_FUEL-1-rn

This schematic shows the electrolyzer developed at Rice to reduce carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, to valuable fuels. At left is a catalyst that selects for carbon dioxide and reduces it to a negatively charged formate, which is pulled through a gas diffusion layer (GDL) and the anion exchange membrane (AEM) into the central electrolyte. At the right, an oxygen evolution reaction (OER) catalyst generates positive protons from water and sends them through the cation exchange membrane (CEM). The ions recombine into formic acid or other products that are carried out of the system by deionized (DI) water and gas. Illustration by Chuan Xia and Demin Liu


Greenhouse Gas 20170327_pr4602_co2tocnt



(** New catalyst recycles greenhouse gases into fuel and hydrogen gas continues)

“It took us almost a year to understand the underlying mechanism,” said first author Youngdong Song, a graduate student in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at KAIST. “Once we studied all the chemical events in detail, we were shocked.”

The researchers dubbed the catalyst Nanocatalysts on Single Crystal Edges (NOSCE). The magnesium-oxide nanopowder comes from a finely structured form of magnesium oxide, where the molecules bind continuously to the edge. There are no breaks or defects in the surface, allowing for uniform and predictable reactions.

“Our study solves a number of challenges the catalyst community faces,” Yavuz said. “We believe the NOSCE mechanism will improve other inefficient catalytic reactions and provide even further savings of greenhouse gas emissions.”

This work was supported, in part, by the Saudi-Aramco-KAIST CO2 Management Center and the National Research Foundation of Korea.

Other contributors include Ercan Ozdemir, Sreerangappa Ramesh, Aldiar Adishev, and Saravanan Subramanian, all of whom are affiliated with the Graduate School of Energy, Environment, Water and Sustainability at KAIST; Aadesh Harale, Mohammed Albuali, Bandar Abdullah Fadhel, and Aqil Jamal, all of whom are with the Research and Development Center in Saudi Arabia; and Dohyun Moon and Sun Hee Choi, both of whom are with the Pohang Accelerator Laboratory in Korea. Ozdemir is also affiliated with the Institute of Nanotechnology at the Gebze Technical University in Turkey; Fadhel and Jamal are also affiliated with the Saudi-Armco-KAIST CO2 Management Center in Korea.

Story Source:

Materials provided by The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Youngdong Song, Ercan Ozdemir, Sreerangappa Ramesh, Aldiar Adishev, Saravanan Subramanian, Aadesh Harale, Mohammed Albuali, Bandar Abdullah Fadhel, Aqil Jamal, Dohyun Moon, Sun Hee Choi, Cafer T. Yavuz. Dry reforming of methane by stable Ni–Mo nanocatalysts on single-crystalline MgOScience, 2020; 367 (6479): 777 DOI: 10.1126/science.aav2412

A new method of extracting hydrogen from water more efficiently to capture renewable energy

Crystal structure and {MoTe}6 polyhedra showing the building blocks of each polymorph. a monoclinic 1T′-MoTe2 phase and b hexagonal 2H-MoTe2 phase. Credit: Nature Communications 10.1038/s41467-019-12831-0

A new method of extracting hydrogen from water more efficiently could help underpin the capture of renewable energy in the form of sustainable fuel, scientists say.

In a new paper, published today in the journal Nature Communications, researchers from universities in the UK, Portugal, Germany and Hungary describe how pulsing through a layered catalyst has allowed them to almost double the amount of  produced per millivolt of electricity used during the process.

Electrolysis, a process which is likely familiar to anyone who studied chemistry at , uses electric current to split the bonds between the hydrogen and oxygen atoms of water, releasing hydrogen and oxygen gas.

If the electric current for the process of electrolysis is generated through renewable means such as wind or , the entire process releases no additional carbon into the atmosphere, making no contributions to climate change. Hydrogen gas can then be used as a zero-emission fuel source in some forms of transport such as buses and cars or for heating homes.

The team’s research focused on finding a more efficient way to produce hydrogen through the electrocatalytic water splitting reaction. They discovered that electrodes covered with a molybedenum telluride catalyst showed an increase in the amount of hydrogen gas produced during the electrolysis when a specific pattern of high-current pulses was applied.

By optimising the pulses of current through the acidic electrolyte, they could reduce the amount of energy needed to make a given amount of hydrogen by nearly 50%.

Dr. Alexey Ganin, of the University of Glasgow’s School of Chemistry, directed the research team. Dr. Ganin said: “Currently the UK meets about a third of its energy production needs through renewable sources, and in Scotland that figure is about 80%.

“Experts predict that we’ll soon reach a point where we’ll be producing more renewable electricity than our consumption demands. However, as it currently stands the excess of generated energy must be used as it’s produced or else it goes to waste. It’s vital that we develop a robust suite of methods to store the  for later use.

“Batteries are one way to do that, but hydrogen is a very promising alternative. Our research provides an important new insight into producing hydrogen from electrolysis more effectively and more economically, and we’re keen to pursue this promising avenue of investigation.”

Since the level of catalytic enhancement is controlled by electric currents, recent advances in machine learning could be used to fine-tune the right sequence of applied currents to achieve the maximum output.

The next stage for the team is the development of an artificial intelligence protocol to replace human input in the search for the most effective electronic structures use in similar catalytic processes.

The paper, titled “The rapid electrochemical activation of MoTe2 for the hydrogen evolution reaction,” is published in Nature Communications

More information: The rapid electrochemical activation of MoTe2 for the hydrogen evolution reaction, Nature Communicationsdoi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-12831-0 , www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-12831-0

Journal information: Nature Communications

Provided by University of Glasgow

Getting Real Serious About Renewable Hydrogen In Real (Heartland) America


Image: Two membrane-bound protein complexes work together with a synthetic catalyst to produce hydrogen from water by Olivia Johnson and Lisa Utschig via Argonne National Laboratory.


File this one under “W” for “When you’ve lost the heartland.” Something called the Midwest Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Coalition has just launched a mission to bring the renewable hydrogen revolution to a cluster of US states which, for reasons unknown, pop up whenever someone mentions America’s heartland, aka Real America. This is a significant development because until now, hydrogen fans have been dancing all around the perimeters of the Midwest without managing to grab a toehold.

Hydrogen is a zero-emission fuel, practically. When used in fuel cells, it produces nothing but purified water. The problem, though, is cleaning up the source of hydrogen. Currently, fossil natural gas is the primary source of hydrogen, which kind of clonks the zero emission thing in the head.

The good news is that renewable hydrogen technology is rapidly improving. One main pathway is to “split” hydrogen from water using an electrical current (aka electrolysis).

Until recent years electrolysis made no sense because coal and gas have dominated the US energy profile. The advent of low cost renewable energy has changed the game entirely.

In somewhat of an ironic twist, renewable energy critics used to complain that wind and solar were unreliable because they were intermittent. Now that very characteristic has created an opportunity for renewable hydrogen production. The basic idea is to use excess renewable energy to produce hydrogen, which then serves as a transportable energy storage medium.

Some US states have been cultivating the so-named “hydrogen economy” over the past several years, and they are already in a good position to transition from fossil-sourced hydrogen to renewables.

Leading the pack is California. The state’s ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicles) standards already call for a portion of renewable hydrogen in the mix. Eight other states — Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont — have adopted the California ZEV model. Additionally, Colorado, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Washington, and the District of Columbia are following California’s Low Emission Vehicle standards.

So far almost all of this activity is clustered in the coastal and Northeast US states. If all goes according to plan the new MHFCC initiative will bring the hydrogen word to 12 more states smack in the nation’s midsection: Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas.


US Department Of Energy Hearts Renewable Hydrogen

Spearheading MHFCC is the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, in partnership with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The idea is to use the school’s decades-long foundational hydrogen and fuel cell research to jumpstart an R&D program aimed at improving electrolysis technology.

The new initiative will also leverage the Midwest’s considerable renewable energy resources. As Argonne notes, the 12 Midwest states targeted by MHFCC account for 25% of the US population and consume 30% of all electricity generated in the US.

These 12 states also lay claim to 35% of US wind capacity. So far solar has made a dismal showing in the region, but Argonne points out that major new solar projects are finally in the pipeline.

What’s Driving The Midwest Renewable Energy Train

As previously noted by CleanTechnica, the low cost of renewable energy is finally breaking through political barriers in Nebraska and other Midwest states. Considering the region’s large agricultural sector, of particular interest is the emergence of agrivoltaics, in which raised solar panels share space with grazing lands, pollinator habitats, and certain crops.

Another key factor is the Midwest’s reliance on rural electric cooperatives. RECs are becoming more engaged with renewable energy as the cost benefit comes into sharper focus, partly with an assist from the US Department of Energy.

From Renewable Energy To Renewable Hydrogen

Fans of natural gas still have a lot to cheer about. Electrolysis is not quite ready for commercial prime time, and meanwhile the demand for hydrogen is growing.

However, if all goes according to plan renewables will squeeze natural gas out of they hydrogen market in the Midwest. In announcing the new initiative, Argonne specifically states that “…the Midwestern states have some of the highest levels of renewable energy on their grids, and that “hydrogen can be used as an effective storage medium to increase utilization of these renewable energy resources.”

Sorry – not sorry.

For that matter, Argonne and the University of Illinois’s Grainger College of Engineering have already ramped up their work on electrolysis over the past couple of years.

Last fall the school described progress on a new metal-based catalyst for electrolysis. Another big breakthrough came from Argonne last winter, when the lab announced a bio-based alternative.

Also of interest is the Midwest’s relatively high nuclear energy profile. If a market for renewable hydrogen develops, nuclear power plants could continue pumping out zero emission electricity during off-peak hours and store it in the form of hydrogen.

That’s unlikely to motivate the construction of new nuclear power plants, but the use of excess nuclear energy for electrolysis could enable the region’s current fleet to operate more economically for a longer period of time (and that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms).

Interesting! CleanTechnica is reaching out to the University of Illinois to see what else is cooking in the Midwest renewable hydrogen field, so stay tuned for more on that.

The CEO Who Wants Italy to Love Hydrogen Power

A hydrogen fuel tank. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

  • Snam chief says company to inject more hydrogen into system
  • Market could be worth $2.5 trillion if industry embraces gasThe

THE CEO Who Wants Italy to Love Hydrogen Power

— Read on www.bloomberg.com/amp/news/articles/2019-10-10/hydrogen-could-feed-25-of-italy-s-energy-by-2050-snam-says

Water-based fuel cell converts carbon emissions to electricity

This is a schematic illustration of Hybrid Na-CO2 System and its reaction mechanism. UNIST

Scientists from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) developed a system which can continuously produce electrical energy and hydrogen by dissolving carbon dioxide in an aqueous solution.

The inspiration came from the fact that much of the carbon dioxide produced by humans is absorbed by the oceans, where it raises the level of acidity in the water.

Researchers used this concept to “melt” carbon dioxide in water in order to induce an electrochemical reaction. When acidity rises, the number of protons increases, and these protons attract electrons at a high rate. This can be used to create a battery system where electricity is produced by removing carbon dioxide.

The elements of the battery system are similar to a fuel cell, and include a cathode (sodium metal), a separator (NASICON), and an anode (catalyst). In this case, the catalysts are contained in the water and are connected to the cathode through a lead wire. The reaction begins when carbon dioxide is injected into the water and begins to break down into electricity and hydrogen. Not only is the electricity generated obviously useful, but the produced hydrogen could be used to fuel vehicles as well. The current efficiency of the system is up to 50 percent of the carbon dioxide being converted, which is impressive, although the system only operates on a small scale.

“Carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration (CCUS) technologies have recently received a great deal of attention for providing a pathway in dealing with global climate change,” Professor Guntae Kim of the School of Energy and Chemical Engineering at UNIST said in a statement. “The key to that technology is the easy conversion of chemically stable CO2 molecules to other materials. Our new system has solved this problem with [the] CO2 dissolution mechanism.”