Hydrogen can be created cleanly with considerably more efficiency and at a lower cost than is now attainable with commercially available catalysts. The US Department of Energy has established benchmarks for technologies that can produce clean hydrogen for $2 per kilogram by 2025 and $1 per kg by 2030.
Oregon State University study into catalyst design has revealed that hydrogen can be created cleanly with considerably more efficiency and at a lower cost than is now attainable with commercially available catalysts.
The findings are significant because hydrogen production is important for “many aspects of our lives, such as fuel cells for cars and the manufacture of many useful chemicals such as ammonia,” according to Zhenxing Feng, a chemical engineering professor at the Ohio State University College of Engineering who led the research. ” It is also employed in the refinement of metals, the production of man-made products such as plastics, and a variety of other applications.” According to Feng, producing hydrogen by splitting water via an electrochemical catalytic process is cleaner and more sustainable than the traditional method of obtaining hydrogen from natural gas via a carbon-dioxide-producing process known as methane-steam reforming.
However, the higher expense of the greener technology has proved a market hurdle.
An active phase of an amorphous iridium hydroxide-based catalyst demonstrated efficiency 150 times that of its initial perovskite structure and about three orders of magnitude greater than the conventional commercial catalyst, iridium oxide.
This will allow us to create hydrogen at a cost of $2 per kilogram, and eventually at a cost of $1 per kilogram.
This is less expensive than current polluting processes and will contribute to the United States’ objective of zero emissions by 2030.”
Feng points out that the US Department of Energy’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office has established benchmarks for technologies that can produce clean hydrogen for $2 per kilogram by 2025 and $1 per kilogram by 2030 as part of the Hydrogen Energy Earthshot target of reducing the cost of clean hydrogen by 80%, from $5 to $1 per kilogram, in a decade.
Feng’s group is working on water electrolysis technology for clean hydrogen production, which splits water using power generated from renewable sources.
However, the efficiency of water splitting is low, he claims, owing to the significant overpotential – the gap between an electrochemical reaction’s real and theoretical potential – of one critical half-reaction in the process, the oxygen evolution reaction, or OER.
“Catalysts are crucial to encouraging the water-splitting process by lowering the overpotential and, as a result, lowering the total cost of hydrogen production,” Feng explained.