- Number 396 |
- September 2, 2013
New catalyst dives into water to produce hydrogen
Scientists designed a nickel complex that
quickly and efficiently catalyzes the
production of hydrogen in the presence
Few catalysts are energy efficient, highly active, stable, and operate in water, but a nickel-based catalyst designed at the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis at DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory quickly produces hydrogen molecules in solutions with75 percent water. This catalyst contains tailored relays that allow the catalyst to quickly shuttle protons from the solution to the heart of the catalyst, where they are added to electrons. The catalyst is known to be energy efficient, stable and highly active. With the modified design, it now operates in water, producing up to 170,000 hydrogen molecules per second. The study on this catalyst appeared on the cover and was highlighted as a hot article in Chemical Communications.
"We've moved from pure organic solvents to solutions with increasing amounts of water," said Dr. Monte Helm, Deputy Director of the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, an Energy Frontier Research Center. "We found that our catalyst performed better with water than in an organic solvent alone."
Working efficiently in water is key for catalysts that could take electrons generated by solar panels and combine them with protons to create molecular hydrogen, storing the energy for later use. This new catalyst answers fundamental questions about how to design catalysts in the laboratory and eventually in the real world. "We are getting closer to what we need for a real-world catalyst," said Dr. Morris Bullock, Director of the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis.This work was funded by the Center for Molecular Electrocatalysis, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by DOE’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences.
[Kristin Manke, 509.372.6011,