Clean, cheap hydrogen production from water using cobalt catalyst

Posted on 14 Jun 2011


For years, proponents of the hydrogen economy have argued that hydrogen will replace traditional hydrocarbon fuels for transportation purposes. But, so far, a lack of new, inexpensive methods for hydrogen production and storage has impeded this goal. Over the last several years, an MIT professor has been pushing cobalt catalysts as a cheap replacement for the expensive metals typically used to split water. A paper in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academies of Science describes the latest progress here: integrating the cobalt catalyst with a silicon solar cell to create a device that uses the sun to split water. …

The Co-Pi catalyst acts like—and is structurally similar to—the oxygen-evolving (or water-splitting) complex (OEC), the enzyme used in photosynthesis to break down water. Like the OEC, it also exhibits high activity at room temperature in both seawater and fresh water, and operates under neutral pH conditions. This means that, unlike the previous designs, this device doesn’t run into any stability problems over time. When combined with an np-Si junction, the catalyst can increase the efficiency of photoelectrochemical water splitting. We’ve covered this catalyst before being used with zinc oxide, but this is the first demonstration with silicon. …

The primary result of this paper (other than demonstration of the new catalyst integrated with a silicon cell) is that most of the generated potential was used towards the water splitting. As a proof-of-concept, this device is promising, but significant effort will still be needed to develop this concept into a functioning photoelectrochemical cell.

via Clean, cheap hydrogen production from water using cobalt catalyst.

Posted in: Alt Energy