Researchers’ breakthrough may accelerate hydrogen’s replacement of fossil fuels

22 May 2016135 Shares

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Hydrogen has been described as the ultimate clean energy source and potentially a real alternative to fossil fuels

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Researchers at the CRANN nanoscience institute at Trinity College Dublin have discovered a new clean energy material that will increase the adoption of hydrogen as a fuel in energy-efficient transport.

Hydrogen has been described as the ultimate clean energy source and, potentially, a real alternative to fossil fuels.

It is seen as very attractive as it is a pollution-free fuel and energy carrier that would satisfy much of the energy requirements of our society.

Hydrogen is readily prepared by splitting water electrically into its component parts hydrogen and oxygen; a process called electrolysis. However, this process requires a significant energy input and has proven most effective with ruthenium oxide, which is a scarce and expensive material.

‘Our disruptive materials breakthrough is momentous as it means much more energetically efficient and more economical hydrogen energy’
– PROF MIKE LYONS, CRANN

Now, researchers at CRANN have developed a material that enhances the splitting of water at a very low-energy cost using Earth-abundant raw materials.

A realistic clean energy alternative?

“This scientific breakthrough brings us one step closer to a realistic energy alternative,” said Lorraine Byrne,  executive director, CRANN Institute and AMBER National Centre.

The CRANN breakthrough, recently published in the prestigious international journal ACS Catalysis, has shown that the ruthenium content can be decreased by as much as 90pc and substituted with the Earth-abundant and inexpensive manganese oxide without diminishing the efficiency of the material to split water.

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“We are very excited about this very significant breakthrough,” said Prof Mike Lyons, principal investigator at CRANN.

“The adoption of this material in industry will mean that electrochemical hydrogen generation using photo (electrolysis) is now far more economically viable and will hasten adoption of hydrogen as a fuel in energy-efficient transportation.

“It should be noted that this discovery could only have been accomplished using the world-class characterisation facilities and opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration available within the School of Chemistry and CRANN.

“Our disruptive materials breakthrough is momentous as it means much more energetically efficient and more economical hydrogen energy. This means that the cost of producing hydrogen via water electrolysis will be significantly reduced, which will result in a more rapid uptake of hydrogen as an automotive fuel,” Lyons said.

Hydrogen image via Shutterstock

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com