Sometimes when you’re working in a science lab doing research you come up with unexpected and undesired consequences. Yet every once in a blue moon those undesired consequences turn out to be quite desirable.
According to the press release, “Existing in large quantities on Earth, water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen. It can be broken down by applying an electrical current; this is the process known as electrolysis. To improve this particularly slow reaction, platinum is generally used as a catalyst. However, platinum is a particularly expensive material that has tripled in price over the last decade. Now EPFL scientists have shown that amorphous molybdenum sulphides, found abundantly, are efficient catalysts and hydrogen production cost can be significantly lowered.”
Scientists have been working for years to discover a cheap replacement for platinum in fuel cells (fuel cells run in reverse produce hydrogen). In fact, I’ve talked about platinum and platinum-free fuel cells for years now.
In order to make fuel cells affordable for use in cars and other vehicles and for electrolyzers that produce hydrogen as well, materials that replace platinum must be found. So far, some of the replacement materials being worked on include nanocrystals of Titanium Dioxide, doped carbon nanotubes and nickel and cobalt catalysts.
These are not the only platinum free fuel cells, however, as organic and other types of fuel cells and electrolyzers are being researched and developed now all with the intent of bringing down price. In the case of electrolyzers increasing output of hydrogen is also a major endeavor.
If the new molybdenum based catalyst can be refined and scaled up then renewable hydrogen production from sunlight or wind and water will be a reality in the short future. And this would greatly aid the introduction of hydrogen fueling stations and home hydrogen fueling stations on a massive scale worldwide.