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BNL Chemists

Yesterday I had talked about how a senior chemist, Radoslav Adzic, at the Brookhaven National Laboratory (run by the DOE) had won the 2012 Inventor of the Year Award for his work with reducing the amount of platinum needed in fuel cells.

Well, today the Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) has some more big news this time in regard to developing platinum-free hydrogen production (similar to a fuel cell run in reverse). Another lab chemist, Kotaro Sasaki and his team (pictured above) have developed a robust electrocatalyst that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen and uses no platinum in the process.

Instead the electrocatalyst uses nickel, molybdenum and nitrogen to create a nanosheet structure with high surface area and high durability. According to BNL, “Water provides an ideal source of pure hydrogen – abundant and free of harmful greenhouse gas byproducts. The electrolysis of water, or splitting water (H2O) into oxygen (O2) and hydrogen (H2), requires external electricity and an efficient catalyst to break chemical bonds while shifting around protons and electrons. To justify the effort, the amount of energy put into the reaction must be as small as possible while still exceeding the minimum required by thermodynamics, a figure associated with what is called overpotential …

“…the principal metals in the new compound developed by the Brookhaven team are both abundant and cheap: $20 per kilogram for nickel and $32 per kilogram for molybdenum. Combined, that’s 1000 times less expensive than platinum.”

The researchers say that the new nanosheet performs almost as good as platinum in splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen plus it is durable and scalable as well. This means that commercialization of this electrocatalyst is viable and we can expect to see it making its way out of the lab sometime in the near future.

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