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This self-sustaining cell makes electrolysis more practical

By Mary Page Bailey |

A team of researchers from Idaho National Laboratory (INL; Idaho Falls; www.inl.gov) has developed a new electrode material that simplifies hydrogen generation and energy storage via protonic, ceramic electrochemical cells (PCECs). Conventional electrolysis technologies use electricity to efficiently split water, but are limited by their extremely high operating temperatures — often as high as 800ºC, which make them cost-prohibitive for wide market penetration. Furthermore, at these high temperatures, conductor materials can quickly degrade, explains Dong Ding, INL chemical processing group lead. The INL team developed a perovskite-based oxygen electrode that not only enables operation at considerably lower temperatures (400–600ºC), but also exhibits “triple-conducting” behavior — meaning that it can conduct electrons, oxygen ions and protons within a PCEC. “We doped nickel into conventional praseodymium cobalt oxide, and we observed that this doping strategy reduces proton migration drastically and greatly improves electrokinetics,” adds Ding. The triple-conducting characteristic means that the PCEC can be run reversibly without additional hydrogen fuel. “Starting with steam as the feedstock, this a self-sustaining…
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