Now, researchers at KTH have shown that using a new and cheap material, hydrogen can produce both cheap and large-scale. The study, just published in Nature Communication, clarifies that hydrogen has the potential to meet a promising future.
Hydrogen has for a long time been regarded as a promising future energy carrier when fossil fuels are phased out. Major investments have also been made to develop systems for the production and storage of hydrogen.
One of the systems developed to produce hydrogen is a catalyst that can be used to cleave water to hydrogen through electrolysis. It is in this system one of the biggest problems to be found, and as researchers now looked closely at. The materials that have so far enabled the extraction have been through metallic elements such as platinum, ruthenium and iridium. These metals are all very expensive.
"Commercialization of hydrogen as an energy carrier has so far been difficult due to the high cost and that energy conversion so far has been ineffective," says Peili Zhang, one of the KTH researchers involved in the work.
Now, scientists, with Professor Licheng Sun in the lead, have come to the conclusion that the expensive platinum metals can be replaced by a much cheaper material consisting of nickel, iron and copper.
"The new alloy can be used to cleanse water into hydrogen. The catalyst becomes more efficient than the technologies available today, and significantly cheaper. This could allow a large-scale hydrogen production economy based on this technology, "said Peili Zhang.
There have been catalysts based on cheaper materials than platinum metals. However, the disadvantage of these has been that they have not been particularly effective.
The progress is judged to be so important that it resulted in a scientific publication in the scientific journal Nature Communication.
Licheng Sun has previously made progress in the field of research, including the construction of artificial photosynthesis (Nature Chem. 4/2012) and a catalyst based on nickel and vanadium (Nature Com. 7/2016). His and colleagues' research was one of the reasons that the United States then Barack Obama visited KTH in September 2013.
Hydrogen can be used for example to reduce carbon dioxide from steel production or to produce diesel and aircraft fuel.
Study can be found here