Renewable energy could be used to split water to obtain hydrogen – but methods to accomplish this are usually prohibitively expensive, need too much power, or draw on catalyst materials that rapidly break down. A research team led by Washington State University (WSU) came up with a potential solution. They developed “a way to more efficiently generate hydrogen from water” with a sponge-like nanofoam catalyst made of the inexpensive metals iron and nickel.

Washington State University, nanofoam, nanofoam catalyst, catalyst, hydrogen, water-splitting

Hydrogen could serve as renewable fuel in a clean energy future, but it can be difficult to generate. New Atlas said the cleanest method to obtain hydrogen from water is electrolysis, but the process typically needs rare-Earth metals for catalysts. This research team drew on two abundantly available and inexpensive metals to create a catalyst they say actually performs better than many others.

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Researchers developed a simple method to create a lot of a catalyst needed for the water-splitting reaction – and it takes five minutes. Their porous nanofoam looks much like a sponge and can catalyze the reaction using less power than others thanks to “its unique atomic structure and many exposed surfaces throughout the material.” WSU said it “showed very little loss in activity in a 12-hour stability test.”

Yuehe Lin, Shaofang Fu, Washington State University, materials engineering, laboratory, scientists

WSU PhD student Shaofang Fu said in a statement, “We took a very simple approach that could be used easily in large-scale production.” They hope to gain more support to scale up the project. Beyond potential use in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, the university said hydrogen has a variety of uses in industry.

The work appears in the February issue of the journal Nano Energy. Scientists from Argonne National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory contributed.

+ Washington State University

+ Nano Energy

Via New Atlas

Images via Washington State University via