The Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) has recently made great strides in cheaply and efficiently producing hydrogen. One of the long standing problems of creating hydrogen from water has been energy consumption.
According to ANL, “Easier routes to the generation of hydrogen have long been a target of scientists and engineers, principally because the process to create the gas requires a great deal of energy. Approximately 2 percent of all electric power generated in the United States is dedicated to the production of molecular hydrogen, so scientists and engineers are searching for any way to cut that figure …
“Most previous experiments in water-based electrolysis rely on special metals, like platinum, to adsorb and recombine reactive hydrogen intermediates into stable molecular hydrogen. Markovic’s research focuses on the previous step, which involves improving the efficiency by which an incoming water molecule would disassociate into its fundamental components. To do this, Markovic and his colleagues added clusters of a metallic complex known as nickel-hydroxide—Ni(OH)2. Attached to a platinum framework, the clusters tore apart the water molecules, allowing for the freed hydrogen to be catalyzed by the platinum.”
At first I was shocked about that 2 percent figure for electricity to create molecular hydrogen. Then I read on one of ANL’s other pages about interesting facts about catalysts that 3-percent of all energy in the U. S. is used primarily to make plastics.
The point however is that ANL is doing something to reduce this overall energy consumption. Even the DOE has its own take on what ANL is doing and suggests that the theoretical framework created by ANL goes far beyond this one application and will lead to new discoveries and applications for years to come.