Cost-effective method for hydrogen fuel production process discovered at U of A


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Researchers at the U of A have designed nanoparticles that act as catalysts, making the process of water electrolysis more efficient. Credit: Jingyi Chen, Lauren Greenlee and Ryan Manso

 

Nanoparticles composed of nickel and iron have been found to be more effective and efficient than other, more costly materials when used as catalysts in the production of hydrogen fuel through water electrolysis.

The discovery was made by University of Arkansas researchers Jingyi Chen, associate professor of physical chemistry, and Lauren Greenlee, assistant professor of chemical engineering, as well as colleagues from Brookhaven National Lab and Argonne National Lab.

The researchers demonstrated that using nanocatalysts composed of nickel and iron increases the efficiency of water electrolysis, the process of breaking water atoms apart to produce hydrogen and oxygen and combining them with electrons to create hydrogen gas.

Chen and her colleagues discovered that when nanoparticles composed of an iron and nickel shell around a nickel core are applied to the process, they interact with the hydrogen and oxygen atoms to weaken the bonds, increasing the efficiency of the reaction by allowing the generation of oxygen more easily. Nickel and iron are also less expensive than other catalysts, which are made from scarce materials.

This marks a step toward making water electrolysis a more practical and affordable method for producing hydrogen fuel. Current methods of water electrolysis are too energy-intensive to be effective.

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Materials provided by University of ArkansasNote: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ryan H. Manso, Prashant Acharya, Shiqing Deng, Cameron C. Crane, Benjamin Reinhart, Sungsik Lee, Xiao Tong, Dmytro Nykypanchuk, Jing Zhu, Yimei Zhu, Lauren F. Greenlee, Jingyi Chen. Controlling the 3-D morphology of Ni–Fe-based nanocatalysts for the oxygen evolution reactionNanoscale, 2019; DOI: 10.1039/C8NR10138H
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Non-flammable graphene membrane developed for safe mass production – Applications in Fuel Cells, Solar Cells, Super Capacitors & Sensors


NF grapheneThis visualization shows layers of graphene used for membranes. Credit: University of Manchester

” … this makes it possible to mass-produce graphene and to improve a host of products, from fuel cells to solar cells to supercapacitors and sensors.”

University of Arkansas researchers have discovered a simple and scalable method for turning graphene oxide into a non-flammable and paper-like graphene membrane that can be used in large-scale production.

“Due to their and excellent charge and heat conductivities, graphene-based materials have generated enormous excitement,” said Ryan Tian, associate professor of in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. “But high flammability jeopardizes the material’s promise for large-scale manufacturing and wide applications.”

Graphene’s extremely high flammability has been an obstacle to further development and commercialization. However, this makes it possible to mass-produce graphene and to improve a host of products, from fuel cells to solar cells to supercapacitors and sensors. Tian has a provisional patent for this new discovery.

Using metal ions with three or more positive charges, researchers in Tian’s laboratory bonded graphene-oxide flakes into a transparent membrane. This new form of carbon-polymer sheet is flexible, nontoxic and mechanically strong, in addition to being non-flammable.

Further testing of the material suggested that crosslinking, or bonding, using transition metals and rare-earth metals, caused the to possess new semiconducting, magnetic and optical properties.

For the past decade, scientists have focused on graphene, a two-dimensional material that is a single atom in thickness, because it is one of the strongest, lightest and most conductive materials known. For these reasons, graphene and similar two-dimensional materials hold great potential to substitute for traditional semiconductors. Graphene oxide is a common intermediate for graphene and graphene-derived materials made from graphite, which is a crystalline form of carbon.

The researchers’ findings were published in The Journal of Physical Chemistry C.

Explore further: New study shows nickel graphene can be tuned for optimal fracture strength

More information: Hulusi Turgut et al. Multivalent Cation Cross-Linking Suppresses Highly Energetic Graphene Oxide’s Flammability, The Journal of Physical Chemistry C (2017). DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcc.6b13043