A Water-powered Future

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Researchers at the University of Sydney have found support for the theory that water, made into hydrogen, will be the next great leap forward in renewable energy developments.

The new process to convert water into pure hydrogen was developed by Dr. Shenlong Zhao, a FH Loxton Research Fellow, and his team. They have found a clean energy resource breakthrough that could substantially impact emissions and global health to a massive degree.

The Science Behind Elemental Hydrogen

Hydrogen fuel cells produce electricity through the use of hydrogen. Water and heat become the only byproducts. This seemingly simple science has massive potential to mitigate or completely deplete the reliance on carbon-based products used in industries like logistics and transportation, commercial flight, and the automobile sector. Some examples of divestment after applying hydrogen energy development schemes include Japan, South Korea, and Germany.

Prior efforts to turn water into the rare and valuable element hydrogen have often been outmoded due to costs and massive amounts of energy needed to produce the end-product. Dr. Zhao’s team, however, has developed a new water-splitting catalyst requiring less energy than prior attempts.

The New Catalyst

Researchers utilized iron, cobalt, and nickel to develop a series of porous nanocrystals with a metal-organic framework. This framework presents an atomic structure with a lot of surface area through the three-dimensional material. This makes the catalyst efficient and able to rely on less energy than previously develop catalysts (which also featured more expensive materials). After testing, Dr. Zhao’s research team reported minimal activity loss after 150-hour stability testing was complete.

Catalyst materials speed up or slow down chemical reactions at play and are a necessary component for exploring and managing energy conversion. With the new catalyst in hand, Dr. Zhao is hopeful that long-range hydrogen-powered fuel cells will replace the use of oil and gas in varying industries like ocean-liner shipping, cargo transport, and also common aircraft. Even just off-setting the current use of oil and gas would mean a tremendous impact on the environment. Regardless, Dr. Zhao’s discovery will help industries divest from oil and gas and diversify the alternative fuel market.

Source & Image Credit: The University of Sydney