NREL research advances hydrogen production efforts
by Staff Writers Golden CO (SPX) Jan 07, 2016

Researchers at the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have made advances toward affordable photoelectrochemical (PEC) production of hydrogen.  NREL's scientists took a different approach to the PEC process, which uses solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The process requires special semiconductors, the PEC materials and catalysts to split the water.





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If we can develop a catalytic chemical that works in concert with the secondary waste heat to produce Hydrogen through Thermo chemical water splitting, then in fact we could retrofit all current reactors so they can actual produce little or no heat pollution either.  This is another example of synergy and building the artifacts of the transition to a hydrogen based economy.


Because the problem of long term storage of fissionable materials puts such a lifetime burden on future generation, nuclear power should only be looked at a transitional phase of our energy evolution.  Just like battery driven cars will ultimately be phased out by hydrogen fuel cells.  They make for a great transition from reciprocating engines, but ultimately not as efficient as fuel cells.

This is just one of countless examples I could present here of work being done all over the world to cost effectively split sea water into Hydrogen and Oxygen.  In addition there has also been work done in the field of Thermo chemical Water splitting as well.  When we use Nuclear fission to produce power in reactors all over the world, that Nuclear power is often referred to as clean energy because is does not produce greenhouse gases. However, the popular analogy is that “it’s like killing a fly with a cannon” because we produce 50,000 degrees water temperatures and all we do with it is boil water at 212 degrees plus and dump the rest of that waste heat in the nearby body of water.  But heat travels from heat to absence of heat so eventually that 50,000 degrees of constant dumping through heat transfer make to one pole or the other contributing even more to the abnormal aggregation of waste heat that is melting our polar ice.

Previous work used precious metals such as platinum, ruthenium and iridium as catalysts attached to the semiconductors. A large-scale commercial effort using those precious metals wouldn't be cost-effective, however.  The use of cheaper molecular catalysts instead of precious metals has been proposed, but these have encountered issues with stability, and were found to have a lifespan shorter than the metal-based catalysts.  Instead, the NREL researchers decided to examine molecular catalysts outside of the liquid solution they are normally studied in to see if they could attach the catalyst directly onto the surface of the semiconductor. They were able to put a layer of titanium dioxide (TiO2) on the surface of the semiconductor and bond the molecular catalyst to the TiO2.  Their work showed molecular catalysts can be as highly active as the precious metal-based catalysts.