Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory describe details of a low-cost, stable, effective catalyst that could replace costly platinum in the production of hydrogen. The catalyst, made from renewable soybeans and abundant molybdenum metal, produces hydrogen in an environmentally friendly, cost-effective manner, potentially increasing the use of this clean energy source.
Their ultimate goal is to find ways to use solar energy — either directly or via electricity generated by solar cells — to convert the end products of hydrocarbon combustion, water and carbon dioxide, back into a carbon-based fuel. Dubbed “artificial photosynthesis,” this process mimics how plants convert those same ingredients to energy in the form of sugars. One key step is splitting water, or water electrolysis.
“By splitting liquid water (H2O) into hydrogen and oxygen, the hydrogen can be regenerated as a gas (H2) and used directly as fuel,” explains Etsuko Sasaki, member of the Broohaven team.
“A very promising route to making a carbon-containing fuel is to hydrogenate carbon dioxide (or carbon monoxide) using solar-produced hydrogen,” adds Fujita, who leads the artificial photosynthesis group in the Brookhaven Chemistry Department.