Australian scientists say they have found a cheaper and more efficient way to separate hydrogen from water by replacing expensive rare palladium, platinum and palladium catalysts with easy-to-access iron and nickel catalysts, which are popular with current large-scale hydrogen plants and are thousands of times more expensive than the former.
In a paper published in Nature Communications, the team said they had succeeded in replacing expensive platinum on carbon catalysts with a “JANUS nanoparticle catalyst with a nickel-iron oxide interface” and that the resulting circuits could break down water in a way we know it. And achieved the highest energy efficiency to date of 83.7%.
“What we’re doing is applying a catalyst to the electrodes to reduce energy consumption,” said Professor Zhao Chuan of the University of New South Wales’s School of Chemistry. In this catalyst there is a tiny nanoscale interface, iron and nickel meet at the atomic level to become the active part of the decomposing water. Here, hydrogen and oxygen are separated, captured as fuel, and oxygen can be released as an environmentally friendly waste. “
The researchers say nanoscale interfaces have fundamentally changed the performance of these materials. The test results show that the activity of nickel iron catalyst is the same as that of the platinum catalyst that produces hydrogen. Another benefit is that our nickel-iron electrodes can catalyze the production of hydrogen and oxygen, so we can reduce production costs by using the Earth’s rich elements.