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MIT research team finds most efficient oxygen evolution reaction catalyst yet; potential for hydrogen production and rechargeable metal-air batteries

A team of MIT researchers lead by Prof. Yang Shao-Horn, in collaboration with Prof. John Goodenough from the University of Texas as Austin, has found one of the most effective catalysts yet discovered for the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) for use in water-splitting to produce hydrogen or in rechargeable metal-air batteries.

The new compound, composed of cobalt, iron and oxygen with other metals (Ba0.5Sr0.5Co0.8Fe0.2O3–δ, BSCF) catalyzes the OER in alkaline media with intrinsic activity that is at least an order of magnitude higher than the state-of-the-art iridium oxide catalyst. A paper on the research, which was supported by the US Department of Energy’s Hydrogen Initiative, the National Science Foundation, the Toyota Motor Corporation and the Chesonis Foundation, is published in the journal Science.

The design of cost-effective, highly active catalysts for energy storage applications is a critical element in the societal pursuit of sustainable energy. The oxygen evolution reaction (OER) in particular is an enabling process for many energy storage options such as direct-solar and electricity-driven water splitting (H2O → H2 + ½O2, and rechargeable metal-air batteries (MxO2 → Mx + O2). The OER kinetics are sluggish, however, even when facilitated by comparatively high activity, precious-metal containing catalysts. This limitation imposes a significant overpotential requirement, similar to the case of the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) for fuel-cell applications.

...Here we report a distinct OER activity design principle, namely that a near-unity occupancy of the eg orbital of surface transition-metal ions and high covalency in bonding to oxygen can enhance the intrinsic OER activity of perovskite transition-metal oxides in alkaline solution (4OH → O2 + 2H2O + 4e). We further show that this design principle has predictive power, from which a highly active OER oxide catalyst was found. Our approach is based on a molecular orbital bonding framework.

—Suntivich et al.

The team predicted the high activity of BSCF from a design principle established by the systematic examination of more than 10 transition-metal oxides, which showed that the intrinsic OER activity depends on a specific characteristic: the configuration of the outermost electron of transition metal ions. They used this information to predict the high reactivity of the new compound, which they then confirmed in lab tests.

We not only identified a fundamental principle [that governs the OER activity of different compounds], but also we actually found this new compound.

—Yang Shao-Horn

Two catalysts are needed for such a reaction—one that liberates the hydrogen atoms, and another for the oxygen atoms—but the oxygen reaction has been the limiting factor in such systems.

Other groups, including one led by MIT’s Daniel Nocera, have focused on similar catalysts that can operate at low cost in ordinary water. (Earlier post.) But such reactions can occur with higher efficiency in alkaline solutions, which are required for the best previously known catalyst, iridium oxide, as well as for this new compound.

Shao-Horn and her collaborators are now working with Nocera, integrating their catalyst with his artificial leaf to produce a self-contained system to generate hydrogen and oxygen when placed in an alkaline solution. They will also be exploring different configurations of the catalyst material to better understand the mechanisms involved. Their initial tests used a powder form of the catalyst; now they plan to try thin films to better understand the reactions.

In addition, even though they have already found the highest rate of activity yet seen, they plan to continue searching for even more efficient catalyst materials.


  • Jin Suntivich, Kevin J. May, Hubert A. Gasteiger, John B. Goodenough, and Yang Shao-Horn (2011) A Perovskite Oxide Optimized for Oxygen Evolution Catalysis from Molecular Orbital Principles. Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1212858



This could one more step towards future improved batteries and lower cost hydrogen and PEM FCs.

Ii is much too soon to give up of long range BEVs and FC vehicles.


We need engineer-poet, our resident hydrogen expert, to provide an opinion... e-p! help!


These fellas need to put this project on the fast track - as they are now competing with a commercial implementation of the LENR effect developed by Andrea Rossi. His newest demo produced 470kW continuous for 5.5 hours from a < 75kw input.

We wish Dan Nocera and his team the best of luck! Most LENR processes need some H2 in the form of atomic H. But with electricity being produced over unity, why not just electrolyze water?


Please stop spamming about the ludicrous Rossi


Wouldn't that be awesome if Rossi's LENR was real? If LENR power plants were constructed around the world, all of which produced copper, we could have abundant clean energy and low copper prices...eliminating / reducing the rampant theft of everything with copper we have now.


Reel$$....keep us posted on confirmed Rossi's E-cat test/demo results and sales.


I would say the same as i say in autobloggreen website:
Put that into an hydrogen station near where i live along with some fuelcell vehicules. Im sick and tired of waiting endlessly about a green car. I know it's complicated because as soon as these scientists find something then as soon as they lose their jobs and subsidies because the research are then not needed, LOL.
This is the drama behind this, so they know it and learned to endlessly promise something better instead that never come.


Yeah, Reel, keep us posted when there are independently CONFIRMED results from a reputable scientific laboratory with full access to the equipment and where Rossi is not involved in the testing.
Otherwise please stop spamming scams.

Juan Carlos Zuleta

It is quite interesting that this discovery could boost development of both fuel cells and metal-air batteries, at first sight two competing technologies in the not-so-far future. Note that in the link provided by the article above it is stated that this could contribute to developing zinc-air batteries. Mention of the latter type of batteries may only have something to do with the fact that this research was partially funded by Toyota, since I see no reason why this advancement could not accelerate development of Li-air batteries as well.


Even I was very skeptical, but interesting things begin to coming out. I don't think Uppsala University, Ny tecnik, Sweden Skeptics Society are the morons

http://db.tt/wu4OLbgk (data test 470 KW running)

A physicist who witnessed the experiment said: there are only two options: or is a hoax with some isotope that produces a fission reaction or fusion is real but obtained with a so simple additive that Rossi has the terror that could become public domain and losing profit prospects. From here the morbid secrecy. Tertium non datur.

Grant him that patent, so we will know the secret!

However, next step will be to see the system working many days. The first major customer has bought the 1 MW plant. Wait a few months and we'll see how it ends up. Is too good to be true.


Physicists are not necessarily any better than anyone else in detecting mountebanks unless they have full access to all the equipment.
It would have been trivially easy to do proper calometry to show increased heat output.
Instead the whole thing is set up exactly the way a scam would be, and what is more Rossi even has a proven track record for similar scams.
If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, expect a duck not a kangaroo.


"If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, expect a duck not a kangaroo."

What next Dave?.. is Santa Claus real?.. you are draining the fun out of life with your cold hard facts. Damn engineers!.


I'm just a neutral observer of this story.

Earlier this year it seemed to me like a scam or something of folklore.
Since then I follow this affair; the roadmap of Rossi was respected and all criticisms have been removed.

The only thing not clear is the catalyst, which Rossi doesn't want disclosing until the recognize of the international patent.
If you were Rossi, would you unlock the secret?

Excluding this the apparatus works, both small and large scale, at least five hours continue. There are no measurable radiation, so it is not fission reaction. Externally it works like a heat pump using COP = 40.

The mysterious customer has purchased the 1 MW plant to develop it (until we don’t know the name we can always doubt about this customer).
Now the road is downhill. I expect that this customer remains mysterious, for some time, also because it is possible that someone has an interest in sabotaging this invention; and it is revealed the identity of the client as soon as the working template is ready for sale.

However is not important that Rossi has had in the past of mishaps ended bad or that we don’t know the theory of the functioning of the E-cat. We are interested that the machine functions and that is not dangerous.

You, Davemart, you make good to be doubtful, until proved otherwise. But you should be equally dubious of envious people or about so many people who have an interest in boycotting this innovation.
If that is a good thing time is gentleman. Just have a little patience.


Davemart, your skepticism is healthy and appropriate for something that defies present laws of physics. But don't forget that at one time the consensus insisted that man would never fly, or communicate at distance, or identify the building blocks of life... etc.

There are to date some 2066 published journal articles, 1250 conference proceeding papers, 87 Reports, 53 Newspaper articles, 49 books and 80 magazine/etc stories on the excess heat effect now called LENR or LANR (Lattice Assisted Nuclear Reactions.) No reasonable scientist would deny there is something to this. What causes the effect and how, is perplexing to even the best physicists.

But Sven Kullander, Chair Energy of the Royal Academy of Swedish Science - has seen Rossi's process and not declared it a scam or hoax. In fact he and fellow physicists say it is a nuclear effect. As do dozens of other scientists.

Introduction of very low cost energy will put some orthodox energy purveyors out of business. But it will create many new business opportunities for people with vision. It will provide light, heat, and clean water for billions who need it today. You might say there's a high power making low energy nuclear reactions a reality.


Roger Pham

What happens to Rossi's promise of a public demonstration of a 1Mw E-cat device in October 2011? October came and went, and E-cat shows no sign of life!

Meanwhile, Global Warming is wreaking havocs on the Earth with increasing intensity, with record-breaking droughts, floods, heatwaves, storms, etc.

Hmm, which one should a reasonable person believe in?


@Roger Pham

Just do it




Mr. Vanni,

Rossi has had many opportunities to perform a demonstration with proper calorimetry (an insulated tank of water with thermometers). He has never done so, despite such a test allowing him to maintain all his secrets. This has "scam" written all over it.

As for the oxygen-evolution catalyst, I'm glad to see that JCZ caught that this works for lithium-air batteries as well as Zn-air. Hydrogen FCs will still have the issues of the hydrogen production and distribution system, which batteries do not have. A zinc-air system offers range similar to ICEVs and ought to address most of the remaining consumer-acceptance issues.


If we enter into the details we could starting a debate without end.

In last demostration measuring instruments were certificated, used by scientist from important universities.

If we want to be evil, we could say that even the "proper" calorimetry that they wanted use could be rigged to discredit the experiment. The stakes are very high and Rossi doesn’t want to end like Pons and Fleischman.

Let’s wait for a few months and we will see the device on the market. Thereafter everybody can buy and measure it with his own calorimetry. At last what matters is that it works, not what calorimetry I’m using ...

If it's true, we will have solved the problem of climate change and many other great problems.

Let’s return to the thread. Research on rechargeable metal-air has big potential. As soon as rechargeable zinc-air batteries solve the problem of using with low temperature they could replace the expensive lithium. But it is still so far.

However, the fuel cell have big chances because oil companies prefer hydrogen over elettricity and take a little time to set up a network of hydrogen’s stations , as soon as came out hydrogen cars.

Engines, with their progress, could play the game for another ten years, especially in hybrid cars

It's a nice challenge among many different technologies.

Roger Pham

Thanks, joe.vanni, for the links.

According to the following link, page 2,


The "black box" has a volume of 38,000 liters based on dimensions, with weight listed by the mfg. as 10 tonnes. Yet, in 5.5 hours, it managed to put out only 2635 kWh as measured. This puts the volumetric power density as 77 Wh/liter, well within the volumetric power density of NiMh batteries at 100 Wh/liter. There was no verification of the weight of the "black box", only the number 10 tonnes provided, so there is no way to verify the exact gravimetric energy density of the "black box".

So, Rossi et al has not demonstrated beyond reasonable doubts that his "black box" simply contains chemical batteries, and nothing else! A better test would be a much smaller box that contain energy level 10 times the volumetric energy density beyond any type of chemical batteries or chemical fuels possible. BTW, gasoline contains 9700 Wh/liter, and methanol contains about 1/2 but still substantial. A black box may be rigged such as it contains methanol fed to a Direct Methanol Fuel Cell to provide resistive heating, in order to contain much higher volumetric density than present-day rechargeable batteries.

The World is stil anxiously waiting...!!!


@Roger Pham
For now, the device produces only heat that is not from chemical origin and which is heating some water.
When paired with a steam turbine or a Stirling engine could produce electricity. Volumetric density it is not so important for power plant.
If I want to store electricity (i.e. for cars etc.) I still need batteries, unless I want to go back to using a steam engine.
Now I prefer not to run too far.
Don't count your chickens until they've hatched


@Roger Sham,



Oooops! Roger Pham! Sorry;)

Roger Pham

Here is a quote by Steven B. Krivit Editor, New Energy TimesEditor in Chief, Wiley Nuclear Energy Encyclopedia
extracted from:

"Rossi's first customer was Ampenergo. See Lewan article May 16. Ampenergo did not take the opportunity to lock in the North American rights to Rossi's technology. According to Ampenergo, they couldn't find enough money. ---Rossi's second potential customer was Defkalion. They too, despite their overflowing enthusiasm, failed to make their first scheduled payment to Rossi on Aug. 1. ---Rossi's third potential customer was John Preston of Quantum Energy Technologies. After his team went to Bologna and attempted to perform due diligence on Sept. 5 and 6, they walked away. A month later, Rossi said that he cancelled the deal because he didn't like the terms of their contract, despite the fact that Rossi had established the contract with Quantum before letting them walk in the door. ---Rossi met with a fourth potential customer on Sept. 8. The engineer for this fourth potential customer contacted the engineers who worked with the third potential customer to exchange notes. They, in turn, contacted me and requested anonymity because they had signed an NDA with Rossi. ---And finally, on Oct. 28, according to Rossi, he finally performed sufficient due diligence to convince his "first" customer to pay him for his device. Only there is nothing but Rossi's word that such a transaction occurred or that there is even a customer. ---But according to Wired, which based its story on Fox News, which based its story on Sterling Allan, which based his story on Rossi's statement, the customer is real and is the US Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR). ---All because one scientist from the Navy SPAWAR laboratory went to see for himself if there was any merit to Rossi's claims and that Rossi says the customer's name begins with an "N." Wow. ---And what does the SPAWAR scientist have to say? Nothing. ---And what does Peter Svensson, the AP reporter who went to check out Rossi's claims for himself say? Nothing. ---And remember what NASA spokesmen had to say about its relationship with Rossi on Sept. 29 and Oct. 4. Nothing. ---Obviously NASA, the Navy and AP are conspiring to suppress the reality of Rossi's extraordinary device. Steven B. Krivit Editor, New Energy TimesEditor in Chief, Wiley Nuclear Energy Encyclopedia
Steven B. KrivitNov 6th 2011.

Roger Pham

Rossi’s Scientific Failure in Seven Steps
Posted on August 7, 2011 by Steven B. Krivit
See the entire report on:

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