New catalyst for hydrogen production is a step toward clean fuel

Physical and Biological Sciences News

The cover image for the January 10 issue of ChemSusChem was designed by UCSC graduate student Yi Peng, first author of a paper on a novel catalyst for hydrogen production. The image, which shows the production of hydrogen gas when electrons and protons meet on the catalyst, is based on the ancient Chinese legend of Niulang and Zhinü. Niulang was a human cowherd and Zhinü was a fairy from heaven. They fell in love, but their love was banned by the fairy’s queen, who created the Silver River to separate them. The lovers were only able to see each other once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, with the help of a flock of magpies that formed a bridge.A nanostructured composite material developed at UC Santa Cruz has shown impressive performance as a catalyst for the electrochemical splitting of water to produce hydrogen. An efficient, low-cost catalyst is essential for realizing the promise of hydrogen as a clean, environmentally friendly fuel.
Researchers led by Shaowei Chen, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UC Santa Cruz, have been investigating the use of carbon-based nanostructured materials as catalysts for the reaction that generates hydrogen from water. In one recent study, they obtained good results by incorporating ruthenium ions into a sheet-like nanostructure composed of carbon nitride. Performance was further improved by combining the ruthenium-doped carbon nitride with graphene, a sheet-like form of carbon, to form a layered composite.
“The bonding chemistry of ruthenium with nitrogen in these nanostructured materials plays a key role in the high catalytic performance,” Chen said. “We also showed that the stability of the catalyst is very good.”
The new findings were published in ChemSusChem, a top journal covering sustainable chemistry and energy materials, and the paper is featured on the cover of the January 10 issue. First author Yi Peng, a graduate student …

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