As the world slowly moves away from fossil fuels, hydrogen fuel is widely seen as the heir apparent to fulfilling global energy needs in the future. But being able to produce hydrogen fuel cheaply and efficiently presents a major obstacle to widespread adoption.
Hydrogen fuel cells to generate power and water electrolysers for producing clean hydrogen are the two key pieces for making the leap to hydrogen-based energy at scale. Both depend on materials called electrocatalysts to work, according to E&T, and their efficiency is primarily impeded by two specific chemical reactions, oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) and oxygen evolution reaction (OER). A team of chemists and physicists from Finland, France, and Austria have developed a graphene-carbon nanotube catalyst that helps these reactions move along more efficiently.
The scientists’ method involved adding single atoms of elements known for being good catalysts to a porous graphene-carbon nanotube hybrid. These so-called Single Atom Catalysts (SACs) are being extensively researched for their unique properties, and could unlock the secrets of cheaper hydrogen fuel production.