Researchers generate hydrogen from seawater


Hydrogen and offshore electricity generation—whether by wind power, solar cells, or tide/current energy generation—is a natural combination. One complicating factor, however, has been the need for an intermediate step where the water must first be passed through a desalination process and then it must be purified and ionized using costly precious metal catalysts such as platinum and iridium before it can be run through an electrolyser.

Now, an international team of researchers at the University of Adelaide, led by Professor Sizhang Qiao and Associate Professor Yao Zheng from the School of Chemical Engineering,
claim they have split seawater through direct electrolysis using a cheap and non-precious catalyst in a commercial electrolyser.

Associate Professor Zheng, said, “The advantage of the discovery is that seawater is an almost infinite resource and is considered a natural feedstock electrolyte. It is even more practical for regions with long coastlines and abundant sunlight.”

The University of Adelaide researchers claim their system achieves similar performance to a typical PEM (Proton Exchange Membrane) electrolyser operating in high-purity water. This is achieved by introducing a Lewis acid layer (for example, Cr203O) on transition metal oxide catalysts to dynamically split water molecules and capture hydroxyl anions.

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