An important new development has been reported by researchers: a two-electrode catalyst that uses just a single component to extract hydrogen and oxygen from water.

Although such bi-functional catalysts have been tried before, they have often performed poorly in either the hydrogen or oxygen splitting processes. Combining the effects of two catalysts into one does work, but it comes at the expense of increased catalyst production costs.

Using a nickel/molybdenum/nitrogen compound that had been modified with a small amount of iron and grown on nickel foam, researchers from the University of Houston, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Central China Normal University were able to efficiently produce hydrogen, and then, through a process of electrochemical reconstruction sparked by cycling voltage, convert the compound into one that produced a similarly powerful oxygen evolution reaction.

According to the study’s authors, employing the same molecule for both the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) and the oxygen evolution reaction (OER), albeit with minor modifications after reconstruction, reduces costs and streamlines engineering.

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