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5 Feb, 2023
1 min time to read

Breakthrough in Hydrogen Fuel Production.

Researchers at the University of Adelaide have announced a breakthrough in the production of clean hydrogen fuel from seawater without pre-treatment. The findings could eventually provide cheaper green energy production to coastal areas, as demand for hydrogen fuel continues to increase as the world moves away from fossil fuels.

Hydrogen fuel is a clean energy source that only produces water when burned, making it an attractive alternative to fossil fuels. However, producing hydrogen fuel typically requires purifying seawater before electrolysis can split it into hydrogen and oxygen. The researchers at the University of Adelaide have found a way to skip this pre-treatment process and still achieve 100% efficiency in splitting seawater into oxygen and hydrogen.

"We have split natural seawater into oxygen and hydrogen with nearly 100% efficiency, to produce green hydrogen by electrolysis, using a non-precious and cheap catalyst in a commercial electrolyser," said Professor Shizhang Qiao, the team's co-lead. The team used cobalt oxide with chromium oxide on its surface as the catalyst, which they say had similar performance to a standard process using platinum and iridium catalysts on highly purified and deionized water.

Seawater is an abundant resource compared to freshwater, and the ability to extract hydrogen fuel from seawater without pre-treatment could save money. However, it is only practical for coastal communities with plenty of seawater, and not so much for areas with little access to seawater.

The next step for the researchers is to scale the system with a larger electrolyzer, and eventually apply the findings to commercial hydrogen production for fuel cells and ammonia synthesis. Co-lead Yao Zheng summarized, "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 electrolyzer."

These findings are significant for the future of clean energy production and could play a significant role in reducing the world's dependence on fossil fuels. The researchers hope to continue their work and bring the benefits of this breakthrough to communities around the world.