Hydrogen, a versatile fuel and energy carrier, is poised for expanded utilization, leading to an increased demand for freshwater resources for its electrolytic production.
However, researchers have made significant strides in developing processing technologies that harness the power of seawater, alleviating strain on limited water supplies.
A team of scientists from Stanford University, University of Oregon, Manchester Metropolitan University (U.K.), and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has successfully designed a seawater-resilient bipolar membrane electrolyzer capable of producing hydrogen gas while minimizing the generation of harmful byproducts. This innovative system effectively electrolyzes impure seawater, overcoming the challenges posed by corrosive chlorides and associated oxidation products.
The process involves hydrogen ions passing through one membrane layer and reacting with the cathode to form hydrogen gas. Simultaneously, a second membrane selectively permits the passage of negative ions, including chloride ions. Under experimental conditions, this negatively charged presence exhibited remarkable efficiency in blocking almost all chloride ions, enabling the system to operate without producing toxic byproducts such as bleach and chlorine.
Moving forward, the research team aims to optimize the electrolysis system described in the journal Joule by utilizing abundant materials. This endeavor seeks to enhance scalability, making it feasible to generate hydrogen for energy-intensive applications.
The development of a seawater-based electrolysis system holds significant promise for sustainable hydrogen production. By leveraging the vast seawater resources, this technology can help reduce the strain on freshwater supplies while advancing the utilization of hydrogen as a clean energy solution.