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A Pt-free electrode for making H2 from water

By Tetsuo Satoh |

One of the major obstacles to making hydrogen economically by splitting water is the high cost of noble-metal electrodes. Less expensive, non-noble metals only function as electrocatalysts under alkaline conditions, where the reaction requires more electricity. Now, professor Ryoichi Ito at the University of Tsukuba (Tsukuba City, www.tsukuba.ac.jp), in collaboration with Osaka University and Tohoku University, has developed non-noble-metal electrodes capable of performing the H2-evolution reaction (HER) as efficiently as conventional Pt/C electrodes, even under acidic conditions. The new electrodes use nitrogen-doped graphene sheets to encapsulate a NiMo alloy electrode. Unlike other graphene-based electrodes, the Tsukuba system incorporates nanometer-sized holes, which are ringed by chemically active ridges known as fringes. These fringe defects are more hydrophillic than normal graphene, so they attract H3O+ ions in the acid solution, which are involved in the HER reaction mechanism. The fringes also adsorb H atoms, thereby providing extra surface area for another HER process. As a result, the H2 is generated as efficiently as with the more expensive Pt/C electrode, and the remaining hole-free part of graphene protects the metals…
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