Research Progress Toward Better Hydrogen Production

Researchers led by chemistry professors Sen Zhang and T. Brent Gunnoe have produced a new form of catalyst for more efficient hydrogen hydrogen using the elements cobalt and titanium. The advantage of these elements is that they are much more abundant in nature than other commonly used catalytic materials containing precious metals such as iridium or ruthenium.

Argonne National Laboratory and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory synchrotron X-ray absorption spectroscopy examined the structure and found that the catalyst has a well-defined surface structure that allows them to clearly see how the catalyst evolves in the meantime of the oxygen evolution reaction and allows them to accurately evaluate its performance.

Nature Catalysis – Oxygen evolution reaction over catalytic single-site Co in a well-defined brookite TiO2 nanorod surface

Efficient electrocatalysts for the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) are paramount to the development of electrochemical devices for clean energy and fuel conversion. However, the structural complexity of heterogeneous electrocatalysts makes it a great challenge to elucidate the surface catalytic sites and OER mechanisms. Here, we report that catalytic single-site Co in a well-defined brookite TiO2 nanorod (210) surface (Co-TiO2) presents turnover frequencies that are among the highest for Co-based heterogeneous catalysts reported to date, reaching 6.6 ± 1.2 and 181.4 ± 28 s−1 at 300 and 400 mV overpotentials, respectively. Based on grand canonical quantum mechanics calculations and the single-site Co atomic structure validated by in situ and ex situ spectroscopic probes, we have established a full description of the catalytic reaction kinetics for Co-TiO2 as a function of applied potential, revealing an adsorbate evolution mechanism for the OER. The computationally predicted Tafel slope and turnover frequencies exhibit exceedingly good agreement with experiment.

SOURCES – University of Virginia, ANL, LBNL, Nature Catalysis
Written By Brian Wang,

11 thoughts on “Research Progress Toward Better Hydrogen Production”

  1. Hydrogen power will always be a niche market. It will never replace the Internal Combustion Engine. Never.

    Burning hydrogen instead of gasoline means you're limited to the same types of mechanical power loss as the ICE. A more efficient battery means a level of efficiency hydrogen combustion will never reach.

    And really, hydrogen isn't an energy source. It never was. It's an energy storage system, since it requires input electricity to make hydrogen. Electricity is already pumped into nearly every house in the country. There's no infrastructure for hydrogen cars.

    Hydrogen cars is a technological dead end. It might have made sense on paper in the 1970's but no longer. The pushers of hydrogen cars are trying to stay relevant on government grants. Nothing more. It will never be a thing.

  2. If you have a bunch of nuclear, it may make more sense to deliver the electricity directly – depending on location. Though you could use the waste heat from nuclear as process heat to also produce some methanol or whatever for niche applications. But I remain very skeptical on US nuclear any time soon.

    IMO, people who are NIMBY about everything shouldn't complain that they're not getting services. Though a large power plant can supply electricity to at least tens of km distance, so it can still be fairly remote if you can find a suitable location.

  3. Using nuclear and renewable energy sources to produce methanol means that such facilities can be located almost anywhere on the planet. Some communities may not want a nuclear power plant or massive wind turbines or land carpeting solar panels in their area. But in more remote areas, such facilities could continuously produce methanol without disturbing anyone.

    Floating nuclear power plants located in remote areas of the ocean could easily supply all of the energy required for human civilization in the form of renewable methanol. And methanol powered tankers could transport this commodity to practically any coastal town or city in the world– even into the Great Lakes area.

    Methanol can replace natural gas in natural gas electric power plants, methanol can power ocean vessels, methanol can be used in fuel cell trucks and automobiles, methanol can be converted into carbon neutral gasoline and jet fuels.

    China, India, and Europe are already starting to move towards a methanol economy. The US needs to be equally as aggressive by moving towards a renewable methanol economy.

  4. That makes zero sense. You invest more energy splitting water to get hydrogen than you get from burning the hydrogen. If you plan to get the hydrogen from fossil fuels, that produces a bunch of CO2 as byproduct – may as well just burn the fuels directly.

    I'm less sure re methanol, but I suspect that may be energetically unfavorable as well, if you go the industrial route to methanol (i.e. from syngas). You could produce methanol biologically, but not at a scale that would work for power plants.

    For trucks that's another matter. There the hydrogen basically acts as a battery (you invest energy upfront, then extract it later).

  5. It seems that their material has an isolated cobalt atom "doping" a titanium oxide nanorod. So, not much cobalt needed.

  6. Hey I say full steam ahead with retrofitting natural gas power plants to switch to hydrogen. Also, this could benefit companies like Nikola Motors.

  7. Cheaper electrolysis of water into hydrogen will be one of the major keys towards a carbon neutral hydrocarbon economy of renewable methanol and renewable jet fuel. Methanol is already being used as a marine fuel. But it can also be used to replace natural gas for cheaply retrofitted natural gas electric power plants and can also be converted into gasoline (renewable carbon neutral gasoline).

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