Professor Anthony O. Mullane has the potential for the chemical storage of renewable energy in the form of hydrogen was invested around the world.
"The Australian Government is interested in developing a hydrogen export industry to export our abundant renewable energy," said Professor O. Mullane of QUT's Science and Engineering Faculty.
"In principle, hydrogen offers a way to store clean energy in a balance that is required to make the rollout of large-scale solar and wind farms as well as the export of green energy viable.
"However, current methods that use carbon sources to produce hydrogen emit carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, which mitigates the benefits of using renewable energy of the sun and the wind.
"Electrochemical water splitting driven by electricity sourced from renewable energy technology has been identified as one of the most sustainable methods of producing high-purity hydrogen."
Professor O'Mullan has the new composite material and PhD student Ummul Sultana has developed enabled electrochemical water splitting in hydrogen and oxygen using cheap and readily available elements as catalysts.
"Traditionally, catalysts for splitting water involve expensive precious metals such as iridium oxide, ruthenium oxide and platinum," he said.
"An additional problem is stability, especially for the oxygen evolution part of the process.
"What we found is that we can use two ground-rich cheaper alternatives – cobalt and nickel oxide with only a fraction of gold nanoparticles – to create a stable bi-functional catalyst to split water and produce hydrogen without emissions.
"From an industry point of view, it makes a lot of sense to use one catalyst material instead of two different catalysts to produce hydrogen of water."
Professor Oulullane said that the storage of hydrogen could then be used in fuel cells.
"Fuel cells are a growing technology that has been rolled out in many vehicles, using hydrogen and oxygen as fuel to generate electricity – essentially the opposite of water splitting.
"With a lot of cheaply made hydrogen we can feed fuel cell-generated electricity back into the grid when required at top demand or make our transportation system and the only thing emitted is water.
"Gold Doping into a Layered Co-Ni Hydroxide System by Galvanic Replacement for Overall Electrochemical" was published in Advanced functional materials.
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