Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Engineers teach old chemical new tricks to make cleaner fuels, fertilizers: Researchers from Denmark and Stanford show how to produce industrial quantities of hydrogen without emitting carbon into the atmosphere

On the left, a scanning tunneling microscope image captures the bright shape of the moly sulfide nanocluster on a graphite surface. The grey spots are carbon atoms. Together the moly sulfide and graphite make the electrode. The diagram on the right shows how two positive hydrogen ions gain electrons through a chemical reaction at the moly sulfide nanocluster to form pure molecular hydrogen.

Credit: Jakob Kibsgaard
On the left, a scanning tunneling microscope image captures the bright shape of the moly sulfide nanocluster on a graphite surface. The grey spots are carbon atoms. Together the moly sulfide and graphite make the electrode. The diagram on the right shows how two positive hydrogen ions gain electrons through a chemical reaction at the moly sulfide nanocluster to form pure molecular hydrogen.

Credit: Jakob Kibsgaard

Abstract:
University researchers from two continents have engineered an efficient and environmentally friendly catalyst for the production of molecular hydrogen (H2), a compound used extensively in modern industry to manufacture fertilizer and refine crude oil into gasoline.

Engineers teach old chemical new tricks to make cleaner fuels, fertilizers: Researchers from Denmark and Stanford show how to produce industrial quantities of hydrogen without emitting carbon into the atmosphere

Stanford, CA | Posted on January 27th, 2014

Although hydrogen is abundant element, it is generally not found as the pure gas H2but is generally bound to oxygen in water (H2O) or to carbon in methane (CH4), the primary component in natural gas. At present, industrial hydrogen is produced from natural gas using a process that consumes a great deal of energy while also releasing carbon into the atmosphere, thus contributing to global carbon emissions.

In an article published today (Jan. 26, 1300 EST) in Nature Chemistry, nanotechnology experts from Stanford Engineering and from Denmark's Aarhus University explain how to liberate hydrogen from water on an industrial scale by using electrolysis .

In electrolysis, electrical current flows through a metallic electrode immersed in water. This electron flow induces a chemical reaction that breaks the bonds between hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The electrode serves as a catalyst, a material that can spur one reaction after another without ever being used up. Platinum is the best catalyst for electrolysis. If cost were no object, platinum might be used to produce hydrogen from water today.

But money matters. The world consumes about 55 billion kilograms of hydrogen per year. It now costs about $1 to $2 per kilogram to produce hydrogen from methane. So any competing process, even if it's greener, must hit that production cost, which rules out electrolysis based on platinum.

In their Nature Chemistry paper, the researchers describe how they re-engineered the atomic structure of a cheap and common industrial material to make it nearly as efficient at electrolysis as platinum - a finding that has the potential to revolutionize industrial hydrogen production.

The project was conceived by Jakob Kibsgaard, a post-doctoral researcher with Thomas Jaramillo, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Stanford. Kibsgaard started this project while working with Flemming Besenbacher, a professor at the Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center (iNANO) at Aarhus.

Subhead: Meet Moly Sulfide

Since World War II petroleum engineers have used molybdenum sulfide - moly sulfide for short - to help refine oil.

Until now, however, this chemical was not considered a good catalyst for making moly sulfide to produce hydrogen from water through electrolysis. Eventually scientists and engineers came to understand why: the most commonly used moly sulfide materials had an unsuitable arrangement of atoms at their surface.

Typically, each sulfur atom on the surface of a moly sulfide crystal is bound to three molybdenum atoms underneath. For complex reasons involving the atomic bonding properties of hydrogen, that configuration isn't conducive to electrolysis.

In 2004, Stanford chemical engineering professor Jens Norskov, then at the Technical University of Denmark, made an important discovery. Around the edges of the crystal, some sulfur atoms are bound to just two molybdenum atoms. At these edge sites, which are characterized by double rather than triple bonds, moly sulfide was much more effective at forming H2.

Armed with that knowledge, Kibsgaard found a 30-year-old recipe for making a form of moly sulfide with lots of these double-bonded sulfurs at the edge.

Using simple chemistry, he synthesized nanoclusters of this special moly sulfide. He deposited these nanoclusters onto a sheet of graphite, a material that conducts electricity. Together the graphite and moly sulfide formed a cheap electrode. It was meant to be a substitute for platinum, the ideal but expensive catalyst for electrolysis.

The question then became: could this composite electrode efficiently spur the chemical reaction that rearranges hydrogen and oxygen atoms in water?

As Jaramillo put it: "Chemistry is all about where electrons want to go, and catalysis is about getting those electrons to move to make and break chemical bonds."

Subhead: The acid test

So the experimenters put their system to the acid test -- literally.

They immersed their composite electrode into water that was slightly acidified, meaning it contained positively charged hydrogen ions. These positive ions were attracted to the moly sulfide clusters. Their double-bonded shape gave them just the right atomic characteristic to pass electrons from the graphite conductor up to the positive ions. This electron transfer turned the positive ions into neutral molecular hydrogen, which bubbled up and away as a gas.

Most importantly, the experimenters found that their cheap, moly sulfide catalyst had the potential to liberate hydrogen from water on something approaching the efficiency of a system based on prohibitively expensive platinum.

Subhead: Yes, but does it scale?

But in chemical engineering, success in a beaker is only the beginning.

The larger questions were: could this technology scale to the 55 billion kilograms per year global demand for hydrogen, and at what finished cost per kilogram?

Last year, Jaramillo and a dozen co-authors studied four factory-scale production schemes in an article for The Royal Society of Chemistry's journal of Energy and Environmental Science.

They concluded that it could be feasible to produce hydrogen in factory-scale electrolysis facilities at costs ranging from $1.60 and $10.40 per kilogram - competitive at the low end with current practices based on methane -- though some of their assumptions were based on new plant designs and materials.

"There are many pieces of the puzzle still needed to make this work, and much effort ahead to realize them," Jaramillo said. "However, we can get huge returns by moving from carbon-intensive resources to renewable, sustainable technologies to produce the chemicals we need for food and energy."

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Tom Abate

650-736-2245

Copyright © Stanford School of Engineering

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Leti to Demo Wristband with Embedded Sensors to Diagnose Sleep Apnea: APNEAband, Which Will Be Demonstrated at CES 2018, Also Monitors Mountain Sickness, Dehydration, Dialysis Treatment Response and Epileptic Seizures December 12th, 2017

Leti Develops World’s First Micro-Coolers for CERN Particle Detectors: Leti Design, Fabrication and Packaging Expertise Extends to Very Large Scientific Instruments December 11th, 2017

Untangling DNA: Researchers filter the entropy out of nanopore measurements December 8th, 2017

Device makes power conversion more efficient: New design could dramatically cut energy waste in electric vehicles, data centers, and the power grid December 8th, 2017

JPK Instruments announce partnership with Swiss company, Cytosurge AG. The partnership makes Cytosurge’s FluidFM® technology available on the JPK NanoWizard® AFM platform December 8th, 2017

Chemistry

UCLA chemists synthesize narrow ribbons of graphene using only light and heat: Tiny structures could be next-generation solution for smaller electronic devices December 8th, 2017

Discoveries

UCLA chemists synthesize narrow ribbons of graphene using only light and heat: Tiny structures could be next-generation solution for smaller electronic devices December 8th, 2017

Untangling DNA: Researchers filter the entropy out of nanopore measurements December 8th, 2017

Device makes power conversion more efficient: New design could dramatically cut energy waste in electric vehicles, data centers, and the power grid December 8th, 2017

Wheat gets boost from purified nanotubes: Rice University toxicity study shows plant growth enhanced by -- but only by -- purified nanotubes December 6th, 2017

Announcements

Leti to Demo Wristband with Embedded Sensors to Diagnose Sleep Apnea: APNEAband, Which Will Be Demonstrated at CES 2018, Also Monitors Mountain Sickness, Dehydration, Dialysis Treatment Response and Epileptic Seizures December 12th, 2017

Leti Develops World’s First Micro-Coolers for CERN Particle Detectors: Leti Design, Fabrication and Packaging Expertise Extends to Very Large Scientific Instruments December 11th, 2017

Untangling DNA: Researchers filter the entropy out of nanopore measurements December 8th, 2017

Device makes power conversion more efficient: New design could dramatically cut energy waste in electric vehicles, data centers, and the power grid December 8th, 2017

Interviews/Book Reviews/Essays/Reports/Podcasts/Journals/White papers

UCLA chemists synthesize narrow ribbons of graphene using only light and heat: Tiny structures could be next-generation solution for smaller electronic devices December 8th, 2017

Device makes power conversion more efficient: New design could dramatically cut energy waste in electric vehicles, data centers, and the power grid December 8th, 2017

Creating a new kind of metallic glass December 7th, 2017

Copper will replace toxic palladium and expensive platinum in the synthesis of medications: The effectiveness of copper nanoparticles as a catalyst has been proven December 5th, 2017

Food/Agriculture/Supplements

Wheat gets boost from purified nanotubes: Rice University toxicity study shows plant growth enhanced by -- but only by -- purified nanotubes December 6th, 2017

Report highlights opportunities and risks associated with synthetic biology and bioengineering November 22nd, 2017

A new way to mix oil and water: Condensation-based method developed at MIT could create stable nanoscale emulsions November 8th, 2017

Quorum reports on how cryo prep techniques for SEM are being applied in the Laboratory of Food Technology & Engineering at the University of Ghent, Belgium November 7th, 2017

Energy

Inorganic-organic halide perovskites for new photovoltaic technology November 6th, 2017

Dendritic fibrous nanosilica: all-in-one nanomaterial for energy, environment and health November 4th, 2017

New nanomaterial can extract hydrogen fuel from seawater: Hybrid material converts more sunlight and can weather seawater's harsh conditions October 4th, 2017

Researchers set time limit for ultrafast perovskite solar cells September 22nd, 2017

Industrial

Silicon Sense first to achieve EPA approval to import detonation nanodiamonds to US: Nanodiamond additives can significantly improve the performance of metal finishing, polymer thermal and mechanical compounds, polymer coatings, CMP polishing and a range of other applications November 29th, 2017

A new way to mix oil and water: Condensation-based method developed at MIT could create stable nanoscale emulsions November 8th, 2017

Researchers greenlight gas detection at room temperature October 26th, 2017

Novel 'converter' heralds breakthrough in ultra-fast data processing at nanoscale: Invention bagged four patents and could potentially make microprocessor chips work 1,000 times faster October 20th, 2017

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project