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IIT-G team develops material to make carbon-free hydrogen economy

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Guwahati, Oct 25 (IANS) Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT-G) are developing novel materials that can use sunlight to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The materials are much cheaper than the currently used ‘noble metals’, leading to cost-effective solar-powered hydrogen generators as well as also pave the way to a carbon-free hydrogen economy.

While the commonly known ‘solar cells’ convert light directly into electrical energy, there is another type of sunlight-powered energy conversion system called ‘PhotoElectroChemical’ (PEC) cells that have elicited attention in recent times due to their direct production of fuels in combination of electrical energy.

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PEC cells use solar energy to split simple and safe compounds such as water into hydrogen and oxygen, hydrogen being a high-energy fuel that can be stored and used as needed.

“Despite the promise, PEC cells are not yet a practical solution to the energy crisis because of the scientific bottlenecks such as the sluggishness of the water-oxidation process. Catalysts are used to activate the water-splitting process but these catalysts are expensive metals such as platinum, iridium and ruthenium, among others, which render the cells impractical,” said Mohammad Qureshi, Professor, Department of Chemistry at IIT-G, in a statement.

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The team at IIT Guwahati has developed non-noble metal catalysts that are as good as the expensive metals in splitting water in PEC cells.

They published their findings in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.

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“We have developed a ternary catalyst that comprises cobalt-tin layered-double hydroxides (LDH) and bismuth vanadate, which forms a p-n junction semiconductor with graphene bridges, and have shown that the catalyst, when used as a photoanode, is able to split water easily to produce hydrogen and oxygen,” Qureshi said.

–IANS

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