Researchers at the University of Delaware have discovered that nano-scale nickel spheres may be the key to cheap and abundant hydrogen via electrolysis of water. Platinum, ruthenium and iridium rare metals often found in fuel cells or electrolyzers and the goal is the replace these elements with something that is cheaper and more abundant.
According to the University of Delaware, “…Yushan Yan believes that electrochemical energy engineering is the key to reducing humankind’s reliance on combustion as the dominant player in energy conversion.
“All of his research is aimed at laying the foundation for a new era of affordable electrochemical devices, including fuel cells, electrolyzers, solar hydrogen generators, and redox flow batteries …
“…Creating this suite of devices is a tall order, and Yan knows that success is achieved one small breakthrough at a time. He and his research group recently made one such breakthrough when they synthesized a nickel-based catalyst that can split water into oxygen and hydrogen gas. Nickel, which is cheap and abundant, is an attractive replacement for currently used precious metals.”
Yushan Yan goes onto say, “We have to switch from proton exchange membranes, which are acidic, to hydroxide exchange membranes, which are basic, if we want to eliminate the use of precious metals. Ultimately, this approach will lead to a new generation of affordable and commercially viable electrochemical systems.”
So, there you have it. The researchers believe that the future belongs to nickel based catalysts and replacing proton exchange membranes, which are in most fuel cell cars today, with hydroxide exchange membranes.