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A less expensive alternative to platinum for water electrolysis

By Paul Grad |

A suitable catalyst for splitting water to make hydrogen must exhibit high H2-conversion efficiency, excellent durability, and must operate well under low voltage. For an efficient H2-evolution reaction, the catalyst must be able to trigger proton reduction with minimal overpotential and must have fast kinetics. Currently, the most efficient catalysts in acidic media are platinum-based, because the strength of the Pt–H bond is associated with the fastest reaction rate for the H2-evolution reaction. However, the Pt-based catalysts are expensive, and are also less stable in an alkaline environment. Catalysts made of inexpensive, non-noble metals corrode rapidly under acidic conditions and operate at very high voltages, which limits productivity. Now, researchers from Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST; Ulsan, South Korea; www.unist.ac.kr), led by professor Jong-Beom Baek, have developed a ruthenium-based water splitting catalyst that acts almost as effectively as platinum, but is less expensive and is not affected by the water pH. The UNIST team has synthesized Ru and C2N, a two-dimensional graphene-like structure, to verify its performance as a water-splitting catalyst. To synthesize the Ru@C2N catalyst, the…
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