Breakthrough Research Reveals Key Insights into Electrolysis for Hydrogen Production

Sept. 8, 2023
Researchers think the can potentially reduce the energy cost of hydrogen production from water.

Researchers have utilized advanced techniques to investigate the structure and chemical activity of an electrical conductor involved in the process of electrolysis, which involves breaking water into oxygen and hydrogen gas, according to an article on EurekAlert! Resonant X-ray absorption microscopy was employed to observe the chemical changes around the atoms of the electrode during electrolysis while applying electrical voltage. This allowed for the creation of a map detailing the chemical changes within the electrode and the surrounding liquid.

Splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen is a crucial process for energy storage, but it demands energy itself. To design more efficient electrodes with energy-saving catalytic properties, understanding the atomic structure and chemical mechanisms under actual working conditions is essential. The research revealed that the oxygen state around metal atoms in the electrode undergoes significant changes during electrolysis, with the most active sites for oxygen production found at the edges of the electrode nanoplatelets. This insight will enable materials engineers to fine-tune the chemistry at the platelet edges, potentially reducing the energy cost of hydrogen production from water.

Funding for this research was provided by the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Division of Materials Sciences and Engineering, along with support from the National Science Foundation and the DOE Office of Science's Small Business Innovation Research program. X-ray work was conducted at the Advanced Light Source, a DOE Office of Science user facility.

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