Hydrogen fuel derived from seawater could be an abundant and sustainable alternative to fossil fuels, but the potential energy carrier has been limited by technical challenges, including how to practically harvest it. Researchers at the University of Central Florida have designed for the first time a nanoscale material that can efficiently split seawater into oxygen and hydrogen.
More specifically, they have developed a thin-film material with nanostructures on the surface made of nickel selenide with added, or “doped,” iron and phosphor. This combination offers the high performance and stability that are needed for industrial-scale electrolysis, but that has been difficult to achieve because of issues, such as competing reactions, within the system that threaten efficiency.
The new material balances the competing reactions in a way that is low-cost and high-performance. Using their design, the researchers achieved high efficiency and long-term stability for more than 200 hours.
The seawater electrolysis performance achieved by the dual-doped film far surpasses those of the most recently reported, state-of-the-art electrolysis catalysts and meets the demanding requirements needed for practical application in the industries, according to Yang Yang, an associate professor in UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center.
The UCF research team will work to continue improving the electrical efficiency of the materials they have developed. They are also looking for opportunities and funding to accelerate and help commercialize the work.