Researchers at the National Synchrotron Light Source are working on a more robust catalyst to be used in solar – hydrogen production. The scientists are x-raying cobalt-based thin films to determine their reactive properties.
According to the Brookhaven National Laboratory, “Due to the mechanical and electrical complexity of the water-splitting reaction, there are many requirements in order for a catalyst to perform optimally. Scientists must understand not only a candidate’s local molecular structure but also its structure over longer ranges – particularly the nanoscale, which tends to be a good indicator of a material’s electronic behavior and therefore its overall catalytic activity.
“Scientists are increasingly focusing on a particular group of catalysts: cobalt-based thin films. These films are created via electrodeposition from aqueous solutions of cobalt mixed with an electrolyte. In this study, researchers from Columbia University, Harvard University, and Brookhaven Lab used x-rays to better understand the intermediate-range nanoscale structure of one of these films. They also investigated the structural differences between films grown using two electrolytes: phosphate, a negative phosphorous-oxygen ion, and borate, negative a boron-oxygen ion.”
The thickness of the surface area of the thin films in relation to catalytic properties is a major focus of the study. So far the results are promising for a low cost method of producing hydrogen using solar energy.