Researchers discover promising hydrogen evolution reaction catalyst

Researchers discover promising hydrogen evolution reaction catalyst

February 6, 2019 1 By Tami Hood

A new study may have found a solution to technologically and commercially limited HER catalysts.

Scientists from Technische Universität Berlin have found a novel hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) strategy that involves synthesizing hierarchically mesoporous molybdenum (Mo)-based carbon electrocatalysts. Their discovery could mean a hydrogen fuel production method that isn’t technologically or commercially limited like current non-noble metal catalysts.

Non-noble metal catalysts are vital for supporting a future hydrogen economy.

While proponents of hydrogen fuel believe this alternative source of energy to be a possible solution to help with the global energy crisis, presently, one of the biggest challenges hydrogen faces is it has yet to achieve sustainable and scalable production.

While generating hydrogen via water electrolysis is an ideal strategy, the issue is that efficient hydrogen evolution catalysts are needed to support a successful hydrogen economy. More specifically, catalysts based on non-noble metals (e.g. not platinum) are required.

However, the trouble is that most non-noble metal catalysts for the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) mainly display high activity in acidic media, but when it comes to the oxygen evolution reaction (OER), these catalysts are efficient only in alkaline conditions.

“So, for practical applications, HER catalysts working just in acidic conditions are technologically and commercially limited due to the lack of efficient and affordable counter electrodes,” says Shuang Li from Technische Universität Berlin and lead author of the paper, reports Advanced Science News.

The researchers’ mesoporous catalysts out-performs the current top hydrogen evolution reaction.

The researchers came up with a novel strategy for synthesizing hierarchically mesoporous molybdenum (Mo)-based carbon electrocatalysts that display excellent hydrogen evolution activity under alkaline conditions.

Unlike other strategies, this approach is reportedly viable for large-scale production due to its fast-acting and envrionmentally-friendly reaction medium. Using a water-processable dopabmine-molybdate precursor, the researchers were able to produce small Mo-based nanocrystallites within the porous carbon material.

Due to its exceptional hydrogen evolution activity under alkaline conditions, the mesoporous catalyst outperforms platinum/carbon, which is presently the top HER.

In their hydrogen evolution reaction study, the researchers noted that the next step is to fabricate a lab-scale water Hydrogen evolution reaction - Researchers - Scientist using microscopeelectrolysis device to further test and optimize the catalyst in alkaline conditions, including seawater. The researchers believe that their strategy could also be used to produce other advanced mesoporous carbon materials and electrodes for an array of applications.