US electrolysis process could simplify green hydrogen production

A water-splitting electrolysis process developed by researchers at Georgia Tech in the US could simplify the production of carbon-free green hydrogen, it is claimed.

Electrolysis – in which electricity is passed through water in the presence of catalysts to yield hydrogen and oxygen – is an important process for the production of green hydrogen. However, the process currently relies on expensive noble metal components such as platinum and iridium for catalysts, and the high cost of these materials, however, is a limiting factor in the uptake of green hydrogen production.

Georgia Tech researchers observe hydrogen and oxygen gases generated by a water splitting reactor. Image: Georgia Tech

In an effort to address this, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) have designed and demonstrated a new class of hybrid catalysts that reduce the requirements for these expensive materials and, according to lead researcher Professor Seung Woo Lee, demonstrate superior performance for both oxygen and hydrogen spills.

“We designed a new class of catalysts where we came up with a better oxide substrate that uses less of the noble elements,” he said.

Jinho Park, a research scientist at GTRI and a leading researcher of the study, said this research could help lower the barrier to equipment costs used in green hydrogen production. In addition to developing hybrid catalysts, the researchers have refined the ability to control the shape of the catalysts and the interaction of metals. The main priorities were to reduce the use of the catalyst in the system while increasing its durability, as the catalyst is a major part of the equipment cost.

The group’s work drew on the computational and modeling expertise of research partner, the Korea Institute of Energy Research, and X-ray measurements from Kyungpook National University and Oregon State University, which took advantage of the country’s synchrotron, a super x the size of a soccerfield. ray to investigate and monitor the structural changes in the catalyst during the nanometer-scale water splitting process.

An important finding, Park said, was the role of the catalyst’s shape in hydrogen production.

“The surface structure of the catalyst is very important to determine whether it is optimized for hydrogen production. Therefore, we are trying to control both the shape of the catalyst and the interaction between the metals and the substrate material,” he said.

Park said some of the key applications that will benefit first are hydrogen stations for fuel cell electric vehicles, microgrids and a new community approach to designing and operating electrical grids that rely on renewable energy-driven backup power.

The team’s research has been published in the journals Applied Catalysis B: Environmentme and me Energy and Environmental Sciences

Abhishek Maheswari
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