Technology for Producing Hydrogen Fuel

Australia scientists have developed a highly efficient oxygen-producing electrode for splitting water that has the potential to be scaled up for industrial production of the clean energy fuel, hydrogen. The new technology is based on an inexpensive, specially coated foam material that lets the bubbles of oxygen escape quickly.

Unlike other water electrolysis that use precious metals as catalysts, the new UNSW electrode is made entirely from two non-precious and abundant metals -- nickel and iron.

Commercially available nickel foam, which has holes in it about 200 micrometers across, or twice the diameter of a human hair, is electroplated with a highly active nickel-iron catalyst, which reduces the amount of costly electricity needed for the water-splitting to occur.

This ultra-thin layer of a nickel-iron composite also has tiny pores in it, about 50 nanometers across.

Hydrogen production is a rapidly growing industry, but the majority of hydrogen is still produced using fossils fuels such as natural gas, oil and coal, because this approach is still cheaper than electrolysis of water.

Hydrogen is a great fuel for powering mobile devices or vehicles, and storing electricity generated from renewable energy, such as solar.

"Cleaner sources of fuel like hydrogen will be particularly important for reducing carbon dioxide emissions," says Associate Professor Zhao.

Source: science daily (prepared by science and technology information center)