Cobalt-based material to replace platinum in hydrogen production?

cobaltA recent study reveals the work of scientists in developing a cobalt-based material that has a good potential of replacing platinum in the production of hydrogen via electrolysis.

One of the new material has a neutral pH and can be used in aqueous solutions. The other catalytic material is considered commutable that does not contain noble metals and is good for water electrolysis.

Energy from the wind, sun, and other renewable sources are only available intermittently and are distributed irregularly. Because of these, it is critical to have ways of storing the energy effectively. Production of hydrogen via electrolysis of water is a promising method but requires the use of catalysts with noble metals like platinum. These metals are very rare and therefore very expensive, making the development of the technology very impractical.

The research by teams from Joseph Fourier University, CNRS, and CEA focuses on the use of chemical processes using bio-inspired materials like enzymes systems on certain organisms. Through the years, experts have been trying to develop catalysts from such enzymes based on more abundant and cheaper materials like manganese, nickel, iron, and cobalt.

In order to use the synthetic catalysts, they need to be fixed, in large quantities, on electrodes just like how platinum is used. Back in 2009, the team from the same institutes was able to immobilized nickel-based bio-inspired catalysts on nanotubes of carbon. The material was only active on acidic reactions and not ideal for hydrogen production which needs to occur on basic pH or on neutral conditions.

The most recent research, they used a catalyst based on cobalt and have found out that this material can work on reactions in a neutral aqueous environment. They also found out that the setup is pretty stable even on the long-term with the catalyst forming a good bond with the nanotube.

They also came up with second material also based on cobalt. These are nanoparticles that can be used in the production of hydrogen and oxygen in a pH neutral environment. This is the first non-noble metal catalyst developed.

These new materials can be developed to make the affordable production of hydrogen possible.

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