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Hydrogen Production

[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

EPFL team develops low-cost water splitting cell with solar-to-hydrogen efficiency of 12.3%

September 26, 2014

A team led by Dr. Michael Grätzel at EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) in Switzerland has developed a highly efficient and low-cost water-splitting cell combining an advanced perovskite tandem solar cell and a bi-functional Earth-abundant catalyst.

The combination of the two delivers a water-splitting photocurrent density of around 10 milliamperes per square centimeter, corresponding to a solar-to-hydrogen efficiency of 12.3%. (Currently, perovskite instability limits the cell lifetime.) Their paper is published in the journal Science. In a companion Perspective in the journal, Dr. Thomas Hamann of Michigan State University, who was not involved with the study, called Grätzel’s team’s work “an important step towards achieving [the] goal” of quickly developing alternative sources of energy that can replace fossil fuels.

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German researchers boost algal hydrogen production five-fold using metabolic engineering approach

September 25, 2014

Scientists from the Max Planck Institutes for Chemical Energy Conversion and Coal Research and from the research group Photobiotechnology at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) have discovered a way of increasing the efficiency of hydrogen production in microalgae by a factor of five by using a combined metabolic engineering approach. An open access paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science.

The genetic modifications resulting in the enhanced light-driven hydrogen production opens new avenues for the design of H2-producing organisms, which might lead to the design of an economically competitive hydrogen producing organism, the researchers suggest.

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U Glasgow chemists develop new electrolyzer architecture for H2 production 30X faster than current electrolyzers at equivalent platinum loading

September 15, 2014

Chemists from the University of Glasgow (Scotland) have developed a new method for hydrogen production that is 30 times faster than current state-of-the-art proton exchange membrane electrolyzers at equivalent platinum loading. The process also solves common problems associated with generating electricity from renewable sources such as solar, wind or wave energy. A paper on their method is published in the journal Science.

The method uses a recyclable redox mediator (silicotungstic acid) that enables the coupling of low-pressure production of oxygen via water oxidation to a separate, catalytic hydrogen production step outside an electrolyzer that requires no post-electrolysis energy input. This approach sidesteps the production of high-pressure gases inside the electrolytic cell (a major cause of membrane degradation) and essentially eliminates the hazardous issue of product gas crossover at the low current densities that characterize renewables-driven water-splitting devices.

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Stanford team reports new low-cost, non-precious metal catalyst for water splitting with performance close to platinum

August 22, 2014

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Structure of the NiO/Ni-CNT hybrid. Blue = nickel, green = nickel oxide. Credit: Gong et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Stanford University, with colleagues at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and other institutions, have developed a nickel-based electrocatalyst for low-cost water-splitting for hydrogen production with performance close to that of much more expensive commercial platinum electrocatalysts.

As described in their paper in Nature Communications, the catalyst comprises nanoscale ​nickel oxide/nickel heterostructures formed on carbon nanotube sidewalls (NiO/Ni-CNT nano-hybrids). The researchers were able to make the electrocatalysts active enough to split water at room temperature with a single 1.5-volt battery, said Hongjie Dai, a professor of chemistry at Stanford. This marked the first time anyone has used non-precious metal catalysts to split water at a voltage that low, he added.

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Molecular shuttle speeds up hydrogen production by the photocatalytic splitting of water

August 15, 2014

In their latest experiments with semiconductor nanocrystals as light absorbers, physicists led by Professor Jochen Feldmann (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, LMU Munich), in collaboration with a team of chemists under the direction of Professor Andrey Rogach (City University of Hong Kong), have succeeded in significantly increasing the yield of hydrogen produced by the photocatalytic splitting of water.

The crucial innovation, reported in the latest issue of the journal Nature Materials, is the use of a so-called molecular shuttle to markedly improve the mobility of charge carriers in their reaction system.

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RIKEN researchers develop bio-inspired catalyst that splits water at neutral pH

August 09, 2014

Plants use photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugars and oxygen. The process starts in a cluster of manganese, calcium and oxygen atoms at the heart of a protein complex called photosystem II, which splits water to form oxygen gas, protons and electrons.

Numerous researchers have attempted to develop synthetic catalysts that mimic this cluster, using light or electricity to convert water into fuels such as hydrogen gas. Unlike plants, however, these artificial catalysts can only split alkaline water, which makes the process less sustainable. Now, researchers at the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science in Japan have developed a manganese oxide-based catalyst system that can split water efficiently at neutral pH. They report on their work in an open access paper in the journal Nature Communications.

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Researchers demonstrate use of 3D printing to produce and operate light-weight, low-cost electrolyzers

July 05, 2014

A team at the University of Glasgow has demonstrated the production and operation of a PEM electrolyzer constructed from silver-coated 3D-printed components fabricated from polypropylene. The use of 3D printing allows construction of light-weight, low-cost electrolyzers and the rapid prototyping of flow field design.

In a paper accepted by the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, the researchers report data showing that performance is excellent for a first-generation device in terms of overall efficiency, internal resistances and current-voltage response. This development opens the door to the fabrication of light-weight and inexpensive electrolyzers as well as related electrochemical devices such as flow batteries and fuel cells, they suggested.

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USC team finds Li-Al nanoparticles produce hydrogen from water with high rate and yield; potential for industrial scaling

June 27, 2014

Aluminum and water react exothermically to form aluminum hydroxide and hydrogen; this basic property has lured numerous researchers interested in generating hydrogen from the aluminum-water reaction for modern transportation systems for at least 35 years. (Earlier post.) However, among the barriers to the practical application of this reaction are the low reaction rate and poor yield.

Now, results of large quantum molecular dynamics (QMD) simulations by a team at the University of Southern California suggest that alloying aluminum particles with lithium to produce hydrogen from water can produce orders-of-magnitude faster reactions with higher yields. Their paper is published in the ACS journal Nano Letters.

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DOE awards $20M to 10 hydrogen production and delivery technologies projects

June 17, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award $20 million to ten new research and development projects that will advance hydrogen production and delivery technologies: six on hydrogen production and four on hydrogen delivery.

The six hydrogen production R&D projects selected aim to produce, deliver, and dispense hydrogen at less than $4 per gallon gasoline equivalent:

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DOE to award up to $4.6M for innovations in fuel cell and hydrogen fuel technologies

June 06, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office (FCTO) issued a funding opportunity announcement for up to $4.6 million for 12–24 month projects with industry and academia (DE-FOA-0000966) in support of innovations in fuel cell and hydrogen fuel technologies. (Earlier post.)

The FCTO Incubator Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is intended to identify potentially impactful technologies that are not already addressed in FCTO’s strategic plan or project portfolio. The FOA is open to any and all impactful ideas which will significantly advance the mission of the FCTO and that are relevant to its Multi-Year Program Plan (MYPP); however, specific areas of interest include:

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New mesoporous crystalline Si exhibits increased rate of H2 production; potential use in Li-ion batteries also

April 11, 2014

Scheme of Mesoporous Silicon
Schematic of mesoporous silicon Image: Donghai Wang/Penn State. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Penn State have devised a new process for the bottom-up synthesis of mesoporous crystalline silicon materials with high surface area and tunable primary particle/pore size via a self-templating pore formation process.

The nanosized crystalline primary particles and high surface areas enable an increased rate of photocatalytic hydrogen production from water and extended working life. These advantages also make the mesoporous silicon a potential candidate for other applications, such as optoelectronics, drug delivery systems and even lithium-ion batteries. A paper on their work is published in Nature Communications.

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US Navy demos recovery of CO2 and production of H2 from seawater, with conversion to liquid fuel; “Fuel from Seawater”

April 08, 2014

Researchers at the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), Materials Science and Technology Division have demonstrated novel NRL technologies developed for the recovery of CO2 and hydrogen from seawater and their subsequent conversion to liquid fuels. Flying a radio-controlled replica of the historic WWII P-51 Mustang red-tail aircraft (of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen), NRL researchers Dr. Jeffrey Baldwin, Dr. Dennis Hardy, Dr. Heather Willauer, and Dr. David Drab used a novel liquid hydrocarbon fuel to power the aircraft’s unmodified two-stroke internal combustion engine.

The test provides a proof-of-concept for an NRL-developed process to extract CO2 and produce hydrogen gas from seawater, subsequently catalytically converting the CO2 and H2 into fuel by a gas-to-liquids process. The potential longer term payoff for the Navy is the ability to produce fuel at or near the point of use when it is needed, thereby reducing the logistics tail on fuel delivery, enhancing combat capabilities, and providing greater energy security by fixing fuel cost and its availability.

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Aberdeen takes delivery of first 4 of 10 hydrogen buses

March 24, 2014

The Aberdeen (Scotland) city council has taken delivery of four of the 10 hydrogen buses ordered from Belgian firm Van Hool and to be operated by FirstGroup and Stagecoach as part of the Aberdeen Hydrogen Bus Project. The others are due to be delivered in the coming weeks; in total, the 10 will represent the largest single operating hydrogen bus fleet. Ballard Power Systems is developing the hydrogen fuel cells for the buses.

The £19-million (US$31 million) Aberdeen City Council-led bus project, which has backing from Europe, the UK Government and the Scottish Government, as well as a broad range of private sector partners, is testing the economic and environmental benefits of hydrogen transport technologies and aims to drive the development of hydrogen technologies.

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JCAP hybrid photocathode material shows promising performance in conversion of solar energy to hydrogen

March 09, 2014

A new study by Berkeley Lab researchers at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) shows that nearly 90% of the electrons generated by a new hybrid photocathode material designed to store solar energy in hydrogen are being stored in the target hydrogen molecules (Faradaic efficiency).

Gary Moore, a chemist and principal investigator with Berkeley Lab’s Physical Biosciences Division, led an efficiency analysis study of the material he and his research group have developed for catalyzing the production of hydrogen fuel from sunlight. (Earlier post.) This material, a p-type (100) gallium phosphide (GaP) semiconductor functionalized with molecular hydrogen-producing cobaloxime catalysts via polymer grafting, has the potential to address one of the major challenges in the use of artificial photosynthesis to make renewable solar fuels.

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DOE to issue funding opportunity for hydrogen and fuel cell Incubator projects

March 07, 2014

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) intends to issue, on behalf of its Fuel Cell Technologies Office, a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) entitled “Innovations in Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Fuels Technologies” (DE-FOA-0001094) for the FCTO Incubator program.

EERE has established multi‐year plans and roadmaps, with a concomitant focus of the majority of its resources on a limited number of “highest probability of success” pathways/approaches to ensure that the program initiatives are supported at a critical mass (both in terms of dollars and time) for maximum impact. While this roadmap‐based approach can be a strength, it can also create challenges in recognizing and exploring unanticipated, game changing pathways/approaches which may ultimately be superior to the pathways/approaches on the existing roadmaps.

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Iogen proposes new method to increase renewable content of transportation fuels; renewable hydrogen from biogas for refinery hydrogenation units

January 23, 2014

Cellulosic biofuel and biochemical company Iogen Corporation has developed and filed for patents on a new method to increase the renewable energy content of liquid transportation fuels. The production method involves processing biogas to deliver renewable hydrogen and then incorporating the renewable hydrogen into conventional liquid fuels via selected refinery hydrogenation units.

The company estimates there is refining capacity in place to incorporate 5-6 billion gallons per year of renewable hydrogen content into gasoline and diesel fuel. Iogen says it will initially commercialize the approach using landfill biogas, and then expand production using biogas made in the cellulosic ethanol facilities it is currently developing.

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University of Houston team demonstrates new efficient solar water-splitting catalyst for hydrogen production

December 16, 2013

Researchers from the University of Houston (UH) have developed a cobalt(II) oxide (CoO) nanocrystalline catalyst that can carry out overall water splitting with a solar-to-hydrogen efficiency of around 5%. They report on their work in a paper in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Corresponding author Jiming Bao, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UH, said photocatalytic water-splitting experiments have been tried since the 1970s, but this was the first to use cobalt oxide and the first to use neutral water under visible light at a high energy conversion efficiency without co-catalysts or sacrificial chemicals.

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DOE issues Request for Information on financing strategies for light-duty H2 fueling infrastructure

December 13, 2013

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) (DE-FOA-0001055) for light-duty fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV) fueling infrastructure financing strategies within the context of an early market introduction.

The purpose of this RFI is to solicit feedback from the financial/investment/business community and light-duty vehicle (LDV) hydrogen transportation stakeholders. This input will augment financing strategies that DOE analyzes for public deployment of infrastructure for supporting FCEV introduction in US markets. Such financing strategies should maximize financing, for example, with debt and equity, while minimizing public incentives.

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California Energy Commission to award up to $29.9M to hydrogen refueling infrastructure projects

November 24, 2013

The California Energy Commission (CEC) will award up to $29.9 million to projects to develop hydrogen refueling infrastructure in California (PON-13-607).

The solicitation has two goals: 1) to develop infrastructure necessary to dispense hydrogen transportation fuel; and 2) to provide needed Operation and Maintenance (O&M) funding to support hydrogen refueling operations prior to the large—scale roll—out of Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCVs). CEC will provide funding to construct, to upgrade, or to support hydrogen refueling stations that expand the network of publicly accessible hydrogen refueling stations to serve the current population of FCVs and accommodate the planned large—scale roll—out of FCVs beginning in 2015.

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NSF/DOE partnership to award up to $18M for H2 production via advanced solar water-splitting technologies; separate DOE solicitation

November 14, 2013

A National Science Foundation and US Department of Energy (DOE) partnership on hydrogen production via solar water-splitting will award (NSF 14-511) up to $18 million to support the discovery and development of advanced materials systems and chemical processes for direct photochemical and/or thermochemical water splitting for application in the solar production of hydrogen fuel.

NSF and DOE are jointly funding this program solicitation issued by the NSF Chemical, Bioengineeering, Environmental and Transport Systems (CBET) Division; NSF expects to make 3 to 5 awards, each of up to 3-years duration. The DOE Fuel Cell Technologies Office also issued a separate solicitation for work a broader range of hydrogen production technologies. (DE-FOA-0000826)

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JCAP researchers propose protocol for standardized evaluation of OER catalysts for solar-fuel systems

November 03, 2013

Master.img-001
Protocol for measuring the electrochemically active surface area, catalytic activity, stability, and Faradaic efficiency of heterogeneous electrocatalysts for OER. Credit: ACS, McCrory et al. Click to enlarge.

Electro-catalytic water splitting to produce hydrogen and oxygen is a key element of solar-fuels devices; identifying efficient catalysts for the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) is critical to their realization. (The OER is efficiency-limiting for direct solar and electrolytic water splitting, rechargeable metal-air batteries, and regenerative fuel cells. Earlier post.) However, notes a team of researchers from the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis at Caltech, current methods employed to evaluate oxygen-evolving catalysts are not standardized, making it difficult to compare the activity and stability of these materials.

To address this issue, the researchers are proposing a protocol to evaluate the activity, stability, and Faradaic efficiency of electro-deposited oxygen-evolving electrocatalysts. In particular, they focus on methods for determining electrochemically active surface area and measuring electrocatalytic activity and stability under conditions relevant to an integrated solar water-splitting device. A paper on their work is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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Duke team develops new core-shell copper nanowire catalyst for efficient water oxidation for solar fuels

October 25, 2013

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A transparent film of copper nanowires was transformed into an electrocatalyst for water oxidation by electrodeposition of Ni or Co onto the surface of the nanowires. Chen et al. Click to enlarge.

A team led by Benjamin J. Wiley at Duke University has introduced a new electrocatalyst for water oxidation consisting of a conductive network of core-shell nanowires that is just as efficient as conventional metal oxide films on indium tin oxide (ITO) and a great deal more transparent and robust. A paper on their work is published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

Water oxidation (2H2O → O2 + 4e- + 4H+) is a key step for converting solar energy into chemical fuels. Nickel and cobalt oxides are attractive anode materials for the oxidation of water because they are readily available and demonstrate high catalytic activity. For use in photoelectric synthesis cells, in which chemical conversions are driven by light, the oxides are typically electrodeposited onto ITO substrates. ITO is used because of its high transmittance and low sheet resistance.

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Researchers develop viable catalysts for reforming of heavy gas oil to hydrogen

October 14, 2013

One approach to delivering hydrogen for the stacks in fuel cell vehicles is via the on-board reforming of hydrocarbon fuels; such an approach obviates the need for on-board hydrogen gas storage technology and leverages the existing liquid fuels infrastructure. However, using more refined low-sulfur hydrocarbon fuels can add to the overall cost of the system. Less refined fuels—such as heavy gas oil—would be less expensive; however, the higher levels of sulfur in the fuels could prove problematic for catalysts.

Now, researchers in S. Korean and Japan have synthesized hollow fiber catalysts networked with perovskite nanoparticles for the production of hydrogen from heavy gas oil reforming, some of which showed high efficiency for H2 production with substantial durability under high concentrations of S, N, and aromatic compounds. Their findings are reported in an open access paper in the journal Scientific Reports.

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Western Hydrogen produces first hydrogen from Molten Salt Gasification pilot plant

September 29, 2013

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Molten Salt Gasification Process. Click to enlarge.

Western Hydrogen Limited reported first production of hydrogen from its Molten Salt Gasification (MSG) pilot plant in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta. The MSG process, under license from Idaho National Laboratory, uses a combination of molten sodium salts (sodium carbonate and sodium hydroxide) to convert a carbon feedstock and water into hydrogen. The technology allows the production of high-pressure hydrogen without the need for compression and can use a variety of feedstocks, including renewables.

Following six years of testing at the Idaho National Laboratory, the pilot plant was constructed to demonstrate the technology’s reliability in a large-scale production facility.

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Kawasaki Heavy to build first ocean-going liquid hydrogen tanker with demo in 2017; H2 for transport, industry, power in Japan

September 28, 2013

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KHI’s view of a “CO2-free hydrogen chain”. Source: KHI. Click to enlarge.

The Nikkei reports that Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. (KHI) will build the first ocean-going ships to carry liquefied hydrogen (LH2), with plans for a demonstration test by 2017 in which liquefied hydrogen will be shipped from the state of Victoria in Australia to Japan. The project will cost ¥60 billion (US$610 million), according to the report.

As part of Japan’s WE-NET (World Energy Network) research program of the New Sunshine Project begun in 1993, Kawasaki and its other industrial colleagues in Japan have been considering the large-scale marine transportation of liquid hydrogen for some time (e.g., Abe et al., 1998). KHI has previously discussed the concept of such a hydrogen-carrying vessel as part of its Business Vision 2020.

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