This week, researchers at the University of Adelaide revealed the production of pure hydrogen fuel from saltwater with no pre-treatment. Demand for hydrogen fuel, a clean energy source that only emits water when burnt, is predicted to rise in the coming years as the globe continues to shift away from fossil fuels (ideally). The discoveries might potentially lead to more affordable green energy generation in coastal locations.
“We have split natural seawater into oxygen and hydrogen with nearly 100% efficiency in order to produce green hydrogen by electrolysis using a non-precious and cheap catalyst in a commercial electrolyzer,” stated team co-leader Professor Shizhang Qiao. Typically, seawater must be cleaned before electrolysis can separate it into hydrogen and oxygen. According to the researchers, their findings employing cobalt oxide with chromium oxide on its surface as the catalyst was comparable to a common procedure of adding platinum and iridium catalysts to highly filtered and deionized water.
Saltwater is a plentiful resource when compared to freshwater, and the capacity to produce hydrogen fuel from seawater without pretreatment might save money. Even if successfully scaled, it would most likely be practicable only for coastal areas with abundant of salt water, not for Iowa or Kansas.
The next step for the team is to grow the system with a bigger electrolyzer. The researchers want to someday apply their discoveries to commercial hydrogen generation for fuel cells and ammonia synthesis, however, this is still in the early stages of development. “Our work provides a solution to directly utilize seawater without pre-treatment systems and alkali addition, which shows similar performance as that of existing metal-based mature pure water electrolyser,” said co-lead Yao Zheng.