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University of Louisville researchers working on new HER catalysts for water-splitting; $1M from NSF, DOE

Researchers at the University of Louisville are developing new catalyst materials for the hydrogen evolution reaction in water splitting, where the bond between hydrogen (H2) and oxygen is released. The current catalyst used in electrolyzers for the production of H2 from water is platinum, which is very expensive.

This research tests materials that are inexpensive, abundant and sustainable, mirroring the process used by plants and bacteria to split water for food production.to generate hydrogen fuels that significantly lowers energy use. The projects has won combined funding of more than $1 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Department of Energy (DOE).

The partnership is led by chemistry professors Robert Buchanan and Craig Grapperhaus, and Gautam Gupta, associate professor of chemical engineering in the J.B. Speed School of Engineering. Grapperhaus was funded $450,000 for three years to benchmark homogeneous H2-evolving catalysts. In addition, Gupta is funded by DOE at $130,000 for one year. More recently, Buchanan and Gupta received $474,400 over three years to translate molecular catalysts to electrode surfaces.

Hydrogen is a promising high efficiency fuel. Efficient molecular catalysts for H2 production from acidic aqueous solutions are rare and expensive. We are excited to translate our chemistry toward making hydrogen competitive with conventional fuels while reducing environmental impacts of production.

—Robert Buchanan

Most hydrogen produced in the U.S. is used to refine petroleum, treat metals, produce fertilizer and process foods. Lowering the cost of production is a key to widespread use as a motor vehicle fuel.

Molecular electrocatalysts address our grand challenge on hydrogen generation. This collaborative effort compliments our efforts in inorganic electrocatalysts and semiconductor development.

—Mahendra Sunkara, director of Conn Center


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