Green hydrogen can be produced by this Cheap and efficient method

  • Efficient Green Hydrogen Production: A joint team from IIT Genoa and BeDimensional proposes using ruthenium nanoparticles and solar-powered electrolysis to enhance the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of green hydrogen production.
  • Electrocatalyst Breakthrough: The researchers introduce a new family of electrocatalysts, showcasing potential to significantly reduce industrial-scale green hydrogen production costs, crucial for achieving sustainability goals.
  • Replacing Fossil Fuel-Based Hydrogen: Current hydrogen production methods release CO2, classified as “gray” or “blue” hydrogen. The new technology aims to replace these processes with environmentally sustainable ones, yielding green hydrogen with zero net emissions.
  • Renewable Energy Integration: The team utilizes renewable energy sources, particularly solar panels, to power the electrolyzer. The method demonstrates higher efficiency in converting electrical energy into chemical energy stored in hydrogen molecules.
  • Ruthenium as Efficient Catalyst: By employing ruthenium nanoparticles as the active phase of the electrolyzer’s cathode, the researchers achieve increased efficiency. Ruthenium’s chemical behavior, similar to platinum but more cost-effective, offers a promising alternative.
  • Cost-Effective and Durable Technology: The use of ruthenium reduces production costs by utilizing only 40 mg per kilowatt, compared to platinum’s extensive use. The technology also enhances the efficiency and durability of alkaline electrolyzers, contributing to more cost-effective green hydrogen production.
What is green hydrogen, and how can it help tackle the climate crisis? |  Stories | WWF
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How can we make cleaner and cheaper green hydrogen? A team from the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Genoa and BeDimensional S.p.A. may have the answer. They suggest using tiny ruthenium particles and a solar-powered system for water electrolysis. This technology, revealed in publications like Nature Communications and the Journal of the American Chemical Society, centers around a new type of electrocatalyst. The goal is to cut down the expenses of producing green hydrogen on a large scale.

Hydrogen is considered a clean energy source, an alternative to fossil fuels. However, not all hydrogen is created equal in terms of environmental impact. Currently, most hydrogen is made through methane steam reforming, a process that relies on fossil fuels and produces carbon dioxide (CO2) as a by-product. The hydrogen from this method is labeled “gray” (if CO2 is released into the air) or “blue” (if CO2 is captured and stored underground).

To achieve the goal of zero emissions by 2050, we need to shift away from these methods and adopt more environmentally friendly ones that yield “green hydrogen” with no net emissions. The cost of producing “green hydrogen” is closely tied to the efficiency of the setup, specifically the electrolyzer that separates water into hydrogen and oxygen. This innovative approach using ruthenium particles and solar power aims to make this process more efficient and cost-effective on an industrial scale.

The scientists in the collaborative group behind this breakthrough have devised a novel approach that ensures higher efficiency compared to existing methods in transforming electrical energy (the energy utilized to split water molecules) into the chemical energy stored in generated hydrogen molecules. They introduced a catalyst concept and harnessed renewable energy sources, including the electrical energy generated by solar panels.

“In our study, we have shown how it is possible to maximize the efficiency of a robust, well-developed technology despite an initial investment that is slightly greater than what would be needed for a standard electrolyzer. This is because we are using a precious metal such as ruthenium,” said Yong Zuo and Michele Ferri from the Nanochemistry Group at IIT in Genoa.

The scientists harnessed the power of ruthenium nanoparticles, a noble metal akin to platinum but more cost-effective. These tiny particles became the active agents in the cathode of the electrolyzer, boosting the overall efficiency of the process.

Sebastiano Bellani and Marilena Zappia from BeDimensional, integral to the breakthrough, shared insights. They ran electrochemical tests under significant industrial conditions, gauging the catalytic prowess of the ruthenium nanoparticles. The researchers also delved into theoretical simulations, unraveling the molecular-level behavior of ruthenium in splitting water on their surfaces.


Sustainable Electrolysis: Ruthenium’s Efficiency and Economic Edge

The team amalgamated experimental data with diverse process parameters, conducting a techno-economic analysis. This scrutiny showcased the competitiveness of their technology compared to cutting-edge electrolyzers.

While ruthenium is a precious metal, its lower cost, obtained as a by-product of platinum extraction, sets it apart. The technology merely requires 40 mg of ruthenium per kilowatt, a stark contrast to the heavier reliance on platinum and iridium in traditional proton-exchange membrane electrolyzers.

This innovation enhances the efficiency of alkaline electrolyzers, a robust and enduring technology employed for decades. Notably, alkaline electrolyzers, powered by ruthenium-based cathodes, played a role in the historic Apollo 11 mission that landed humans on the moon in 1969.

The ruthenium-based cathodes not only exhibit high efficiency but also boast an extended operational lifespan. This bodes well for reducing the production costs of green hydrogen, positioning it as a more economically viable and sustainable option.

Looking ahead, the researchers aim to implement this technology and others, such as nanostructured catalysts based on sustainable two-dimensional materials, in scaled-up electrolyzers. These would be powered by renewable energy sources, including electricity generated by photovoltaic panels. This forward-looking approach aligns with the broader goal of advancing greener and more sustainable methods for hydrogen production.

“In the future, we plan to apply this and other technologies, such as nanostructured catalysts based on sustainable two-dimensional materials, in up-scaled electrolyzers powered by electrical energy from renewable sources, including electricity produced by photovoltaic panels,” concluded the researchers.

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More information: Yong Zuo et al, Ru–Cu Nanoheterostructures for Efficient Hydrogen Evolution Reaction in Alkaline Water Electrolyzers, Journal of the American Chemical Society (2023). 
DOI: 10.1021/jacs.3c06726

Yong Zuo et al, High-performance alkaline water electrolyzers based on Ru-perturbed Cu nanoplatelets cathode, Nature Communications (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-023-40319-5

Journal information: Journal of the American Chemical SocietyNature Communications 

Source(s): Tech Xplore

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