The Korea Research Foundation said on Oct. 15 that a research team of Korea University has developed a catalyst that uses materials other than precious metals to produce hydrogen and oxygen through electrolysis of water.
Hydrogen fuel, a new renewable energy source, is seen as a substitute for fossil fuels.
Among various methods of hydrogen production, the method of electrolysis of water is actively studied by scholars as water is abundant on Earth and the method is environmentally friendly.
However, the method is far from commercialization as it is economically not feasible. This is mainly because precious metals such as platinum and luthenium are used as electrolysis catalysts. The method is also inefficient as it needs to use different catalysts for the anode that produces hydrogen and for the cathode that generates oxygen.
The research team, led by Prof. Kim Dong-wan and Dr. Song Hee-jo, made a high-performance catalyst based on cobalt/sulfur that can be used both the positive and negative poles for electrolysis of water.
The cobalt-sulfur compound has a three-dimensional structure created through self-assembly of two-dimensional nanosheets.
The research team replaced it with nickel and phosphorus to make a difference in composition. Then catalyst activation and stability were improved.
The catalyst showed high catalytic activity in the generation of both hydrogen and oxygen. It also exhibited excellent stability as no change occurred in its characteristics during more than 50 hours of measurement.
"By using relatively inexpensive materials such as cobalt and sulfur, we have created a highly active, bi-functional catalyst for electrolysis of water," said Prof. Kim. “We hope the new technology contributes to mass production of hydrogen.”
The research was carried out with support from the the Ministry of Science and ICT and the Nano Material Development Project of the Korea Research Foundation.
The paper was published on the site of the Advanced Energy Materials, an international journal in the energy field.