Rutgers researchers have developed a technology that could overcome a major cost barrier to make clean-burning hydrogen fuel – a fuel that could replace expensive and environmentally harmful fossil fuels.
Image: Tewodros Asefa
A new technology based on carbon nanotubes promises commercially viable hydrogen production from water.
Tewodros (Teddy) Asefa
The new technology is a novel catalyst that performs almost as well as cost-prohibitive platinum for so-called electrolysis reactions, which use electric currents to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The Rutgers technology is also far more efficient than less-expensive catalysts investigated to-date.
“Hydrogen has long been expected to play a vital role in our future energy landscapes by mitigating, if not completely eliminating, our reliance on fossil fuels,” said Tewodros (Teddy) Asefa, associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology in the School of Arts and Sciences. “We have developed a sustainable chemical catalyst that, we hope with the right industry partner, can bring this vision to life.”
Asefa is also an associate professor of chemical and biochemical engineering in the School of Engineering.
He and his colleagues based their new catalyst on carbon nanotubes – one-atom-thick sheets of carbon rolled into tubes 10,000 times thinner than a human hair.
Finding ways to make electrolysis reactions commercially viable is important because processes that make hydrogen today start with methane – itself a fossil fuel. The need to consume fossil fuel therefore negates current claims that hydrogen is a “green” fuel.
Electrolysis, however, could produce hydrogen using electricity generated by renewable sources, such as solar, wind and hydro energy, or by carbon-neutral sources, such as nuclear energy. And even if fossil fuels were used for electrolysis, the higher efficiency and better emissions controls of large power plants could give hydrogen fuel cells an advantage over less efficient and more polluting gasoline and diesel engines in millions of vehicles and other applications.
In a recent scientific paper published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Asefa and his colleagues reported that their technology, called “noble metal-free nitrogen-rich carbon nanotubes,” efficiently catalyze the hydrogen evolution reaction with activities close to that of platinum. They also function well in acidic, neutral or basic conditions, allowing them to be coupled with the best available oxygen-evolving catalysts that also play crucial roles in the water-splitting reaction.
The researchers have filed for a patent on the catalyst, which is available for licensing or research collaborations through the Rutgers Office of Technology Commercialization. The National Science Foundation funded the research.
Asefa, an expert in inorganic and materials chemistry, joined the Rutgers faculty in 2009 after four years as an assistant professor at Syracuse University. Originally from Ethiopia, he is a resident of Montgomery Township, N.J. In addition to catalysis and nanocatalysis, his research interests include novel inorganic nanomaterials and nanomaterials for biological, medical biosensing and solar cell applications.
For more information, please contact Carl Blesch of Rutgers Media Relations at 848-932-0550 or email@example.com
Carl Blesch | Eurek Alert!
Faster detection of pathogens in the lungs
24.06.2016 | Universität Zürich
How yeast cells regulate their fat balance
23.06.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Physicists in Innsbruck have realized the first quantum simulation of lattice gauge theories, building a bridge between high-energy theory and atomic physics. In the journal Nature, Rainer Blatt‘s and Peter Zoller’s research teams describe how they simulated the creation of elementary particle pairs out of the vacuum by using a quantum computer.
Elementary particles are the fundamental buildings blocks of matter, and their properties are described by the Standard Model of particle physics. The...
A year and a half on the outer wall of the International Space Station ISS in altitude of 400 kilometers is a real challenge. Whether a primordial bacterium...
Researchers at Case Western Reserve University have developed a way to swiftly and precisely control electron spins at room temperature.
A physics experiment performed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has enhanced scientists' understanding of how free neutrons decay...
Chemically the same, graphite and diamonds are as physically distinct as two minerals can be, one opaque and soft, the other translucent and hard. What makes...
09.06.2016 | Event News
24.05.2016 | Event News
20.05.2016 | Event News
24.06.2016 | Materials Sciences
24.06.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
24.06.2016 | Physics and Astronomy