Norwegian scientists have developed a material that could lead to more cost-effective hydrogen production.
Heat is cheaper than electricity and a team of Norwegian scientists have found a way to use this to their advantage and produce hydrogen from vapor, instead of traditional liquid water. To achieve this, they needed to use a material that could withstand extreme heat when steam reaches 600 degrees Celsius, so the scientists created a BGLC material.
The process also offers the benefit of not requiring noble metals, such as platinum.
“Working at higher temperatures offers an additional benefit,” says Einar Vøllestad, a research scientist at SINTEF Industry, reports The Maritime Executive. “You don’t have to use noble metals.”
These expensive noble metals, such as platinum, are required in the next generation of low-temperature electrolyzers in order to make water fission efficient.
However, these materials are not needed to complete the reaction when producing hydrogen from vapor, as this method involves higher temperatures and greater catalytic activity, according to Vøllestad.
Instead, the issue with this method is in finding materials that can stand up to the rigorous demands that occur when steam reaches 600 degrees Celsius. This was the challenge that Vøllestad and fellow scientist Ragnar Strandbakke, a post-doctoral student at the Centre of Materials Science and Nanotechnology at the University of Oslo, sought to overcome.
The scientists began with a list of 120 materials that they thought could be suitable for different parts of the process. Eventually, they decided to choose a material that they knew would be effective and tweaked its chemistry to improve its efficiency.
The material they used is made up of barium, lanthanum, gadolinium, cobalt and oxygen. They have named this material BGLC.
“What we have done is to replace some of the barium in the original material with more lanthanum with the simple objective of making it more basic,” says Vøllestad.
The researchers are working on scaling up their hydrogen from vapor production technique.
The researchers reportedly have the first electrolyzer that works efficiently using pressurized steam. This electrolyzer can be scaled up for use in industrial processes. That being said, it needs to be applied in practice and it must be possible to run the process at a bigger scale, which will be the next phase of the project.
What makes the hydrogen form vapor production process particularly beneficial is that this type of technology and design results in the hydrogen that is generated being totally dry. Currently, all electrolytic processes produce hydrogen contaminated with water or other molecules. These must be separated from the hydrogen before it can be pressurized and stored.
The results of the scientists’ research was published in the journal, Natural Materials.