The device carries out the electrolysis of water (separation of hydrogen and oxygen) by using a 1.5 volt, AAA-type battery in a process that produces no emissions. What makes this device different and the reason this study has been carried out comparing other existing devices, is that it eliminates the use of precious metals (such as platinum and iridium) in the electrodes as these are made up of the plentiful and cheap nickel and iron. This is the first time that the reaction with this type of metals has been achieved with such a low voltage.
Furthermore, the production of hydrogen could be used to produce chlorine and sodium hydroxide, both of which are important for the chemical industry. [sam_block id=”10″ name=”Banner central 728x90px”]
As the launch approaches of the first vehicles that operate via a fuel cell, there is an opportunity for this hydrogen to be cleanly generated. The process that takes place in these cells is the opposite: it combines hydrogen and oxygen, for the resultant production of electricity to drive the vehicle and with water as the only “residue”.
Although these vehicles are being promoted as zero-emissions, the hydrogen they use comes from the combination of a very high temperature steam and natural gas, whose sub-product is carbon dioxide and needs the supply of a large amount of energy.
Scientists need to develop a water separator capable of working on an industrial scale that would avoid the use of fossil fuels and the emission of greenhouse gases.
It was Ming Gong who discovered the effect that was caused by using a nickel/oxide structure compared to the outcome obtained by using nickel alone. Hongje Dai, professor of chemistry at Stanford, stated that they need to search for the way in which these electrodes can be used over an extended period, as their effectiveness diminishes with time, so that a duration of weeks or months can be achieved which, according with the results obtained, is a realistic target.
“Hydrogen is the ideal fuel to supply energy to vehicles, buildings and for the storage of renewable energy on the grid”, added Dai. “This proves that thanks to the nano-engineering of materials we are able to make a difference in the way in which we manufacture fuel and consume energy”.