Chinese researchers split salt water to produce hydrogen

Chinese scientists created a technology that directly split salt water to produce hydrogen.

The novel technology overcomes seawater electrolysis barriers. Researchers created a membrane-based seawater electrolyzer. This device helps electrolyze seawater without corrosion or negative effects.

The team under Nanjing Tech University chemical engineering professor Zongping Shao reported that their device “ran for over 3,200 hours under practical application settings without failure” in Nature.

Hydrogen generation historically relied on electrolyzing saltwater, but challenges arose. Electrolyzing salt water into hydrogen for green fuel sounds tempting, however seawater is known to corrode electrolyzer electrodes. Thus, electrolyzing saltwater is unprofitable.

Some hydrogen generation researchers have explored polyanion coatings and highly selective electrocatalysts to withstand chloride ion corrosion, but these are not practical. Desalinating water requires energy, decreasing hydrogen generation efficiency.

The team dipped electrodes in a concentrated potassium hydroxide electrolyte solution to produce seawater hydrogen. This and a porous membrane separated seawater and electrolyte solution. Fluorine-rich membranes let water vapor through but not liquid water.