A breakthrough by chemists at the University of California-Berkeley could have a profound impact on the growing market for hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
In an article appearing this week in the journal Science, UC Berkeley chemists show how to construct a catalyst composed only of edges and demonstrate that it can catalyze the production of hydrogen from water as readily as the edges and defects in regular catalysts.
“This is a conceptual advance in the way we think about generating hydrogen, a clean burning fuel, from water, a sustainable source,” said Christopher Chang, associate professor of chemistry and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at UC Berkeley. “Our new catalyst is just first generation, but the research gives us and the community a path forward to thinking about how to increase the density of functional active sites so that molecules and materials can be more effective catalysts.”
At the moment, creating these catalysts in the lab is not cheaper than using traditional catalysts, but efforts by Chang and others to simplify the process and create materials with billions of active sites on a ridged wafer much like a Ruffles potato chip could allow cheaper, commercially viable fuel cell catalysts.