RESEARCH
August 1, 2008

Cheap catalyst boosts solar hydrogen prospects

An inexpensive catalyst that extracts oxygen from water is a key step toward making solar water splitting an economically viable way to mass-produce hydrogen for fuel. Solar water splitting uses sunlight to extract oxygen and hydrogen gas from water.

Mix cobalt and phosphate into pH neutral, room temperature water in the presence of an indium tin oxide electrode, add electricity, and the cobalt and phosphate form a thin film on the electrode. The electrified and coated electrode splits water molecules into oxygen gas and hydrogen ions.

Two steps remain to affordably and cleanly produce hydrogen: coming up with an inexpensive catalyst to extract hydrogen gas from the hydrogen ions and integrating the catalysts into a solar cell to power the process directly from sunlight.

Research paper:
In Situ Formation of an Oxygen-Evolving Catalyst in Neutral Water Containing Phosphate and Co2+
Science, published online July 31, 2008

Researchers' homepage:
The Nocera Lab

Related stories and briefs:
Extracting hydrogen and storing it too -- another water-splitting catalyst
Sunny nanotubes -- nanotubes for water splitting
Carbon gets more hydrogen -- nanotubes for water splitting


Back to ERN August 11/18, 2008

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