(Press-News.org) MADISON, Wis. -- Hydrogen could be the ideal fuel: Whether used to make electricity in a fuel cell or burned to make heat, the only byproduct is water; there is no climate-altering carbon dioxide.
Like gasoline, hydrogen could also be used to store energy.
Hydrogen is usually produced by separating water with electrical power. And although the water supply is essentially limitless, a major roadblock to a future "hydrogen economy" is the need for platinum or other expensive noble metals in the water-splitting devices.
Noble metals resist oxidation and include many of the precious metals, such as platinum, palladium, iridium and gold.
"In the hydrogen evolution reaction, the whole game is coming up with inexpensive alternatives to platinum and the other noble metals," says Song Jin, a professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In the online edition of Nature Materials that appears today, Jin's research team reports a hydrogen-making catalyst containing phosphorus and sulfur -- both common elements -- and cobalt, a metal that is 1,000 times cheaper than platinum.
Catalysts reduce the energy needed to start a chemical reaction. The new catalyst is almost as efficient as platinum and likely shows the highest catalytic performance among the non-noble metal catalysts reported so far, Jin reports.
The advance emerges from a long line of research in Jin's lab that has focused on the use of iron pyrite (fool's gold) and other inexpensive, abundant materials for energy transformation. Jin and his students Miguel Cabán-Acevedo and Michael Stone discovered the new high-performance catalyst by replacing iron to make cobalt pyrite, and then added phosphorus.
Although electricity is the usual energy source for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, "there is a lot of interest in using sunlight to split water directly," Jin says.
The new catalyst can also work with the energy from sunlight, Jin says. "We have demonstrated a proof-of-concept device for using this cobalt catalyst and solar energy to drive hydrogen generation, which also has the best reported efficiency for systems that rely only on inexpensive catalysts and materials to convert directly from sunlight to hydrogen."
Many researchers are looking to find a cheaper replacement for platinum, Jin says. "Because this new catalyst is so much better and so close to the performance of platinum, we immediately asked WARF (the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation) to file a provisional patent, which they did in just two weeks."
Many questions remain about a catalyst that has only been tested in the lab, Jin says. "One needs to consider the cost of the catalyst compared to the whole system. There's always a tradeoff: If you want to build the best electrolyzer, you still want to use platinum. If you are able to sacrifice a bit of performance and are more concerned about the cost and scalability, you may use this new cobalt catalyst."
Strategies to replace a significant portion of fossil fuels with renewable solar energy must be carried out on a huge scale if they are to affect the climate crisis, Jin says. "If you want to make a dent in the global warming problem, you have to think big. Whether we imagine making hydrogen from electricity, or directly from sunlight, we need square miles of devices to evolve that much hydrogen. And there might not be enough platinum to do that."
The collaborative team included Professor J.R. Schmidt, a theoretical chemist at UW-Madison, and electrical engineering Professor Jr-Hau He and his students from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia. The U.S. Department of Energy provided major funding for the study.
Societies are failing women, children and adolescents, particularly in the poorest communities around the world, and urgent action is needed to save lives and improve health, say global health experts.
In a special supplement published today by The BMJ, public health experts from around the globe highlight the critical actions and investments that will have the greatest impact on the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents.
The 15 papers in this special supplement outline the current evidence, identify successes as well as critical gaps in progress, ...
Montreal, September 14, 2015 - Using extensive genetic data compiled by the UK10K project, an international team of researchers led by Dr. Brent Richards of the Lady Davis Institute at the Jewish General Hospital has identified a genetic variant near the gene EN1 as having the strongest effect on bone mineral density (BMD) and fracture identified to date. The findings are published in the forthcoming issue of the prestigious journal Nature.
"EN1 has never before been linked to osteoporosis in humans, so this opens up a brand new pathway to pursue in developing drugs to ...
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A study three years ago sparked a medical mystery when it revealed a part of the brain not found in any present-day anatomy textbooks.
Recently, Indiana University computational neuroscientist Franco Pestilli and an international research team published an article in the journal Cerebral Cortex that suggests this missing part of the brain may play an important role in how we understand the world -- despite getting "lost" for more than a century.
A long flat bundle of nerves called the vertical occipital fasciculus, or VOF, the structure appeared ...
Researchers at Cardiff University have devised a way of increasing the yield of biodiesel by using the waste left over from its production process.
Using simple catalysis, the researchers have been able to recycle a non-desired by-product produced when biodiesel is formed from vegetable oil, and convert this into an ingredient to produce even more biodiesel.
It is believed this new process will have significant environmental benefits by improving the yield of biodiesel in a sustainable way that doesn't require the use of additional fossil fuels, and could potentially ...
PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] -- Terahertz radiation could one day provide the backbone for wireless systems that can deliver data up to one hundred times faster than today's cellular or Wi-Fi networks. But there remain many technical challenges to be solved before terahertz wireless is ready for prime time.
Researchers from Brown University have taken a major step toward addressing one of those challenges. They've developed what they believe to be the first system for multiplexing terahertz waves. Multiplexers are devices that enable separate streams of data to ...
(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- Vitamin D insufficiency among the elderly is highly correlated with accelerated cognitive decline and impaired performance, particularly in domains such as memory loss that are associated with Alzheimer's disease and dementia, researchers with the UC Davis Alzheimer's Disease Center and Rutgers University have found. The effect is "substantial," with individuals with low vitamin D declining at a rate three times faster than those with adequate vitamin D levels.
The researchers said their findings amplify the importance of identifying vitamin D ...
Vitamin D insufficiency was associated with faster decline in cognitive functions among a group of ethnically diverse older adults, according to an article published online by JAMA Neurology.
In addition to promoting calcium absorption and bone health, vitamin D may influence all organ systems. Both the vitamin D receptor and the enzyme that converts 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OHD) to the active form of the vitamin are expressed in all human organs, including the brain. Thus, research has increasingly examined the association between vitamin D status and a variety of health ...
To encourage hospitals to improve quality of care, Medicare penalizes those with higher than expected rates of readmission within 30 days of discharge. The logic behind the penalties is that if patients receive high quality care, including proper discharge planning, they should be less likely to end up back in the hospital.
This seems straightforward, but it turns out that the social and clinical characteristics of a hospital's patient population that are not included in Medicare's calculation explain nearly half of the difference in readmission rates between the best- ...
Black children were less likely to receive any pain medication for moderate pain and less likely to receive opioids for severe pain than white children in a study of racial disparities in the pain management of children with appendicitis in emergency departments, according to an article published online by JAMA Pediatrics.
Racial and ethnic differences in the emergency department (ED) management of pain have been described, with lower rates of opioid prescription for black and Hispanic patients than for white patients. However, there are fewer studies in children. Appendicitis ...
The largest population genome sequencing effort to date is published today in Nature. A series of papers describing resources and application of the data is published at the same time in Nature, Nature Genetics, Bioinformatics and Nature Communications.
Rare genetic variants are changes in DNA that are carried only by relatively few people in a population. The UK10K study was designed to explore the contribution of these rare genetic variants to human disease and its risk factors.
"The project has made important new contributions towards describing the role of rare ...