For the first time, researchers at the University of Central Florida created a nanoscale material capable of efficiently splitting saltwater into oxygen and hydrogen.
Hydrogen fuel obtained from the sea could be a plentiful and sustainable alternative to fossil fuels, but the potential fuel source has been constrained by technological problems, including how to produce the hydrogen practically.
Electrolysis is the process of dividing water into hydrogen and oxygen, and it has been difficult to do so successfully until recently. In a report published in the journal Advanced Materials, the new UCF team produced, stable, and long-lasting nanoscale material to catalyze the reaction.
Yang stated that the hydrogen used in fuel cell technology would be turned into electricity, which would produce water as a byproduct and result in a more sustainable energy cycle.
The researchers created a thin-film material with nanostructures on the surface comprised of nickel selenide doped with iron and phosphor. This combination provides the high performance and stability required for industrial-scale electrolysis, but it has proven difficult to obtain due to difficulties inside the system, such as competing reactions, that threaten efficiency.
Yang claims that the novel material balances competing reactions in a low-cost, high-performance manner. The researchers used their approach to attain great efficiency and long-term stability for more than 200 hours.