To produce fuel from hydrogen, separating this element from oxygen in water, the most common procedure used is electrolysis.
A research team presented an alternative extraction model, which allows to fulfill this same task, but reducing the associated costs.
An alternative to electrolysis for hydrogen extraction
Currently, several techniques are available to produce hydrogen fuel without emitting carbon into the Earth’s atmosphere during the process. One of the most common methods, the aforementioned electrolysis, requires a catalyst to speed up the chemical reactions that occur within hydrogen fuel cells.
Usually this electrocatalyst consists of a platinum part. This metal, today, is so rare and in demand that it is usually more expensive than gold. For this reason, the production processes that depend on this material are currently synonymous with high costs, even more than the traditional sources of renewable energy and the fossil fuels that seek to be replaced.
Recently, a team of scientists from the University of Buffalo developed a study on a lower cost alternative for the generation of this class of fuels, called molybdenum disulfide, which is a compound used in lubricants for motorcycle engines and other products.
Their findings suggest that molybdenum disulfide, when combined with titanium carbide and carbon nanotubes, gains the ability to supplant platinum as an electrocatalyst.
In the study, the researchers describe a one-step chemical reaction, known as solvothermal synthesis, that they used to add titanium carbide and carbon nanotubes to molybdenum disulfide to achieve hydrogen extraction.
“This is an exciting development”said the study’s lead author, Fei Yao. “Hydrogen has great potential as a clean fuel source. But for that to happen, we must reduce its cost of production. This is a step towards that goal.”he added.
With the obtained results, a remarkable improvement in the catalytic performance was demonstrated in comparison with other electrocatalysts based on molybdenum disulfide.
“Titanium carbide stands out as a conductive backbone, and carbon nanotubes form a cross-link between two-dimensional molybdenum disulfide. The combination of the three creates an elegant structure that clearly improves the performance of molybdenum disulfide as an electrocatalyst.”study co-senior author Huamin Li said in conversation with the university that hosted this research.
Although these advances are promising in terms of the development of this alternative, improving achievements obtained in previous research with the presented technique, the performance tested so far is not as efficient as platinum. However, the evidence of the viability of this option to produce fuel allows projecting a more widespread adoption of hydrogen in electric vehicles with fuel cells, as well as electricity production and other potential applications.