A collaborative team of scientists including those from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Washington State University have discovered an innovative way of splitting water into parts in order to make renewable energy, even if the sun and the wind are at its weakest.
The method uses solar and wind power when it is available for water splitting. Furthermore, the process uses electricity to split H20 into hydrogen and oxygen and thus stores energy in the form of hydrogen fuel.
“The current water electrolysis system uses a very expensive catalyst. In our system, we use a nickel-iron based catalyst, which is much cheaper, but the performance is comparable,” explains Yu Seung Kim, a research scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and corresponding author on the paper.
The current research uses more abundant and less expensive materials for the process. The team has developed a method to split water under alkaline, or basic conditions with an anion exchange membrane electrolyzer. This electolyzer does not require a catalyst for precious metals.
The latest study by WSU’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering designed a catalyst based on iron and nickel, these are elements which are less expensive and available more abundantly in the environment.
The combination of the Los Alamos-developed electrode binder along with WSU’s catalyst increased the hydrogen production rate to more than ten times than previous anion exchange membrane electrolyzers.