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Highly Efficient Oxygen Catalyst Found

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the fuel-for-the-cause dept.

Power 156

eldavojohn writes "As detailed in the journal Science (abstract), a new compound composed of cobalt, iron and oxygen with other metals presents us with the most efficient way (found so far) of splitting oxygen atoms from water. These ten known compounds provide a reactivity rate that is at least an order of magnitude higher than what is currently known as the gold standard in such reactions. During their research, the team discovered that the reactivity is dependent on the configuration of the outermost electron of transition metal ions, which they exploited to develop this efficient catalyst. For rechargeable batteries and hydrogen fuel, this is exciting work from MIT's Jin Suntivich, Kevin J. May, Hubert A. Gasteiger, and Yang Shao-Horn, and the University of Texas's John B. Goodenough."

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Looks like it was... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37868462)

More than Goodenough.

Re:Looks like it was... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37868560)

More than Goodenough.

LOL, fucking so glad someone said, I was gonna if no one.

Re:Looks like it was... (-1, Offtopic)

Tsingi (870990) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868826)

FYI the comments below are 100% lame ass jokes. No one says anything remotely intelligent, don't waste your time.

Re:Looks like it was... (1, Offtopic)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868844)

I am familiar with the site .. yes.

Re:Looks like it was... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37868876)

Not slashdot. He was talking about the youtube video of his mother.

Re:Looks like it was... (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868886)

I was expecting Johnny B. Goodenough

I'll get my coat...

Re:Looks like it was... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37868946)

You really Shao-Horned that one in there

Re:Looks like it was... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37870468)

You know, my first reaction was: That's GOT to be a made-up name. ...But then Wiki proved me wrong. The truth is stranger than fiction.

Hydrogen (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37868472)

But I thought it was hydrogen we wanted from water. What good is being able to split off oxygen?

Re:Hydrogen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37868534)

The Oxygen helps you feel better about not having the hydrogen. Breath deep.

Re:Hydrogen (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868542)

Damn, you beat me to it... :-(

Re:Hydrogen (1, Funny)

sribe (304414) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868546)

But I thought it was hydrogen we wanted from water. What good is being able to split off oxygen?

God, I hope you're being sarcastic...

Re:Hydrogen (1, Redundant)

Dragonslicer (991472) | more than 2 years ago | (#37870914)

But I thought it was hydrogen we wanted from water. What good is being able to split off oxygen?

God, I hope you're being sarcastic...

Ditto

Re:Hydrogen (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37871452)

But I thought it was hydrogen we wanted from water. What good is being able to split off oxygen?

God, I hope you're being sarcastic...

Ditto

But I thought it was hydrogen we wanted from water. What good is being able to split off oxygen?

God, I hope you're being sarcastic...

Ditto

But I thought it was hydrogen we wanted from water. What good is being able to split off oxygen?

God, I hope you're being sarcastic...

Ditto

- I was, and i think the poster was, too.

God

Re:Hydrogen (4, Funny)

Flyerman (1728812) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868556)

The thing about Water, is that if you pull out the Oxygen, you end up with Hydrogen. It's pretty cool how that happens, I know.

Re:Hydrogen (5, Insightful)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868768)

Unless of course the hydrogen binds to another chemical in the process of catalysing.

Re:Hydrogen (2)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 2 years ago | (#37869236)

A catalyst is, by definition, not consumed in the catalyzed reaction. If they created a catalyst, then it will not bind to the hydrogen.

Re:Hydrogen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37869310)

Unless there is some sort of impurity in the water or on the catalyst itself...

Re:Hydrogen (4, Interesting)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 2 years ago | (#37869320)

No, but other things may bind to the hydrogen, especially if the reaction occurs in open air. I thought about this after I posted, and went and checked the article. The article states that another catalyst is needed to separated out the hydrogen, indicating that it does bind to something other than the oxygen or the catalyst. The reason the article focusses on the oxygen-separating catalyst is that it is the bottle-neck, and not the hydrogen-separating catalyst.

Re:Hydrogen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37869352)

Previous poster meant the hydrogen could bind to something else. Catalysis does not necessarily mean the reaction is simple lysis - it could be a multiple reaction. Although, what else elemental hydrogen would find and want to bond to in an environment of water other than itself is a mystery to me... presumably previous poster could explain that.

Re:Hydrogen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37870240)

Actually catalysts can bind to reaction products, so long as they unbind again sometime. Many catalysts do this.

Re:Hydrogen (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37869464)

The thing about this catalyst is, it works in alkaline solutions to produce water and oxygen. From the article (I know, I'm not supposed to actually read on /.) the reaction is 4OH- > O2 + 2 H2O + 4e-

Re:Hydrogen (1)

tmosley (996283) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868574)

Presumably, it leaves behind hydrogen, as that is the only other component of water.

Re:Hydrogen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37868728)

Would that just be extra wet water, once the oxytocin's gone?

Re:Hydrogen (1)

MiniMike (234881) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868600)

Just for a split second, I almost had an aneurysm. Thank you.

Re:Hydrogen (0, Offtopic)

ejtttje (673126) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868624)

The troll is strong with this one ;)

Re:Hydrogen (2)

clyde_cadiddlehopper (1052112) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868738)

The cathode reaction liberates H The anode reaction liberates O The two reactions need to happen in balance, so the slower one determines the rate of hydrolysis. Speed up the slow anode reaction and the whole thing goes bazingah.

Re:Hydrogen (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37868892)

Disgusting imperialist propaganda. "Liberates." Kidnaps is more like it, splitting the oxygen from its hydrogen like the Nazis did with political opposition.

Re:Hydrogen (0)

Sez Zero (586611) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868866)

What good is being able to split off oxygen?

Goodenough perhaps?

Re:Hydrogen (2)

necro81 (917438) | more than 2 years ago | (#37869130)

I'm not sure if you are being snarky or ignorant. Since you posted as anonymous coward, I will assume the worst. In any event, if you had bothered to read the article, you would have found this:

Two catalysts are needed for [water electrolysis] — one that liberates the hydrogen atoms, and another for the oxygen atoms — but the oxygen reaction has been the limiting factor in such systems.

Hydrogen aside, there are plenty of situations where it would be handy to have a ready source of oxygen. Existing oxygen concentrators are nice, but only concentrate oxygen, rather than produce near-pure oxygen.

Re:Hydrogen (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 2 years ago | (#37870860)

In reference to this article and summary if you trying to use this for fuel cells, getting hydrogen is the harder than getting oxygen which is abundant in the air. Most proposals I've seen to get enough hydrogen involve fossil fuels in some manner like using electricity from the grid (produced by a coal-firing plant) or cracking oil.

Re:Hydrogen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37871172)

Yes, thankfully there is still abundant oxygen in the air. However, in the case of fuel cells and The article quite plainly stated the opposite. The oxygen being pulled off needs to come out of solution or the H2 will immediately rebind with it, making the process rather dull. The trick in making a good fuel generator cell is to coax the H2 and O gently away from each other through intermediate reactions. When the steps of these intermediate reactions are small enough, photons are energetic enough to drive the reaction and thus solar harvesting become possible.

In contract, direct H20 electrolysis requires too much energy to drive directly with photons.

Re:Hydrogen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37869218)

Could this be another step in having breathable air "on the fly" for submarines, scuba, underwater habitats?

Re:Hydrogen (2)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#37871040)

Astronauts do not breathe hydrogen. Nor do submariners. Although why they are splitting water instead of carbon dioxide is what is baffling.

Hope? (1)

crrkrieger (160555) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868482)

Let's hope this works out better than the prospects for cold fusion.

Re:Hope? (1, Insightful)

sbrown123 (229895) | more than 2 years ago | (#37870790)

Nope. It is a MIT press release of their typical "world changing" science that, for some reason, never sees the light of day. They make one of these astounding announcements every few months.

Guess he really was (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37868492)

Guess he really was Goodenough.

Water water everywhere not a drop to drink (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868498)

This device is perfect for those days when breathing is more important than drinking.

Re:Water water everywhere not a drop to drink (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37868536)

No no, this is far more efficient!
- Breathe the oxygen from the water
- Then drink the water
- Also fart less

Re:Water water everywhere not a drop to drink (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868586)

I find that liquid water with the oxygen removed is generally far too cold to drink comfortably.

Re:Water water everywhere not a drop to drink (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868608)

This device is perfect for those days when breathing is more important than drinking.

Shao-Horn and her collaborators are now working with Nocera, integrating their catalyst with his artificial leaf to produce a self-contained system to generate hydrogen and oxygen when placed in an alkaline solution.

If the reaction rate is good enough then getting water out of this is a matter of re-combining the H and O. I guess the open question is how the energy rates compare with RO.

Re:Water water everywhere not a drop to drink (1)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 2 years ago | (#37870050)

Water + Energy (+ Catalyst) => Hydrogen + Oxygen (+ Catalyst)
Hydrogen + Oxygen + Energy => Water + Energy

Notice anything funny about that? I do... if the energies were just right (namely, less in than out), it'd be a perpetual motion machine.

Hint: the energies aren't right, and it's not. You'll have to put more energy into it than you'll get back in a useful form. No catalyst will ever get you to the point where it takes less energy to split the water than you'd get back by recombining the H and O.

Re:Water water everywhere not a drop to drink (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#37870216)

Hint: the energies aren't right, and it's not. You'll have to put more energy into it than you'll get back in a useful form. No catalyst will ever get you to the point where it takes less energy to split the water than you'd get back by recombining the H and O.

That doesn't matter if you're trying to make drinking water. RO uses lots of energy too, both on the manufacture of the membranes and in the running of the plants.

Yes, but you're still forgetting something (1)

_0xd0ad (1974778) | more than 2 years ago | (#37870352)

You might have to have pure water to begin with for this catalyst to give you pure hydrogen and pure oxygen. They probably started with DI water from their RO unit, before they added whatever alkali they needed to activate the catalyst.

Re:Water water everywhere not a drop to drink (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37868640)

If you split oxygen from water, than you also get hydrogen. Use the hydrogen in a fuel cell to produce electricity. You get as a byproduct clean, safe water. Perfect for space, at sea or in developping country with inexistant water-safe supply.

Re:Water water everywhere not a drop to drink (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37868822)

And then you can take the byproduct, the clean, safe water, and pipe it right back into the system to generate more electricity!
Your idea intrigues me, sir.

Re:Water water everywhere not a drop to drink (1)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868808)

If it works with salt water then you're not taking away drinking water...

In fact by combining the Oxygen and Hydrogen seperated afterwards you can get safe drinking water from a non-safe source (such as the ocean)

Re:Water water everywhere not a drop to drink (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37868938)

Correct me if I'm wrong here, but water isn't just made naturally... Water just gets re-used over and over and over again. The same water we had billions of years ago is what fills our oceans today. That means water, while plentiful, would be a very much non-renewable resource.

Why do people think this is a good idea?

Conservation of matter. . . (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 2 years ago | (#37869126)

Chemical reactions do not destroy or change the elements in the compounds. Water is a Hydrogen atom plus an oxygen atom. Nature has been splitting water, then re-forming it for those same billions of years you're talking about. We're not really doing anything new here. We're just doing it in a new way.

When the hydrogen gets used, mostly it'll be "used" by recombining it with oxygen, either in a combustion reaction, in which case the water is re-formed and vented into the atmosphere where it will eventually become part of the rain, or it's recombined with oxygen in a fuel cell to generate electricity, at which point the water is re-formed, vents to the atmosphere, and becomes part of the rain.

Oh, also - we've 'liberated' a lot of 'new' water in the past 150 years - when we pull coal, oil, natural gas, and peat out of the earth to burn it, there's hydrogen in all those fuel sources (as well as carbon). Hydrogen which had been locked away for millions or billions of years, and reacts with oxygen in the atmosphere to form water (technically, it's not 'new water', really, since it started as water aeons ago, and was absorbed into the living plants, mosses, bacteria etc which eventually turned into coal, oil, natural gas, and peat).

Correction: Two hydrogen atoms (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 2 years ago | (#37869192)

Slight slip up while typing. What I typed was, "Water is a Hydrogen atom plus an oxygen atom.". What I *meant* to type is, "Water is two Hydrogen atoms plus an oxygen atom."

Re:Correction: Two hydrogen atoms (1)

Prosthetic_Lips (971097) | more than 2 years ago | (#37869854)

What? You think Slashdotters are pedantic enough to see that you mis-typed your response and call you on it anyway? What do you think we are?

Oh wait, I think I answered my own question ...

Re:Water water everywhere not a drop to drink (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37869136)

Maybe because then you use the hydrogen and oxygen freed from the reaction above as a fuel source for another, energy-producing reaction, you get a very nice by-product...

H2O...

Re:Water water everywhere not a drop to drink (1)

sed quid in infernos (1167989) | more than 2 years ago | (#37869138)

You're wrong. Water is created and destroyed constantly. For example, photosynthesis uses 6 molecules of water and 6 molecules of CO2 to make 6 O2 and 6 sugar molecules. Burning methane results in new water molecules being created, too. And, of course, burning hydrogen results in new water molecules.

Go Johnny (1)

Dr_b_ (112464) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868504)

Johnny B. GoodEnough

Re:Go Johnny (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37868570)

Johnny B. GoodEnough

You beat me to it. Instant classic. Go Johnny, Go!

Re:Go Johnny (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37868668)

he is not "good" just "good enough"

Bollocks (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868908)

I just posted my own version before finding this

Re:Go Johnny (1)

Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) | more than 2 years ago | (#37869798)

He never ever learned to play guitar so well
But he could read a reaction just like ringing a bell
Go go! Go johnny go!

Best name ever (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37868568)

That last guy has the greatest name ever.

Re:Best name ever (2)

MadKeithV (102058) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868748)

That last guy has the greatest name ever.

Don't know about best, but Goodenough.

Catalyst Theory? (2)

TheLink (130905) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868604)

Is there a good theory on how catalysts work, so that scientists can use it to actually design new catalysts rather than "try a whole bunch of stuff and hope one works better"?

Re:Catalyst Theory? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37868688)

If you had read the second linked article [mit.edu] you would know the answer to your question.

Re:Catalyst Theory? (1)

Sez Zero (586611) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868884)

Is there a good theory on how catalysts work...?

Maybe John B has a Goodenough theory for you?

Re:Catalyst Theory? (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868928)

Yes. That was how they came up with this new catalyst.

Re:Catalyst Theory? (4, Insightful)

Rostin (691447) | more than 2 years ago | (#37869298)

I wouldn't consider myself a catalysis expert, but I do computational materials research to predict how atoms are arranged in the surfaces of alloys in order to understand how that affects their catalytic properties, so I do know a thing or three about it. The answer to your question is mostly no. There are good explanations of how catalysts work in many particular cases, but there is certainly no known straightforward way to design a catalyst to do arbitrarily specified chemistry.

Think about this paper. I haven't read it yet, but from the abstract, it looks like it's about a group of researchers finding a single parameter that controls the activity of a particular, narrow class of materials for a particular reaction, and then exploiting that to create an optimal catalyst within this class of materials for that reaction. And for doing that, they were published in Science, which suggests that it's fairly clever, important, and original work. That should give you an idea about what the state of the art is in catalyst design.

John Goodenough, by the way, is about 90 years old, still sharp as a tack, and a world expert in metal oxides (what the catalysts in this study were made out of). Back in the 70s, he "invented" (that's probably not the best word) the cathode material that's still being used in most commercial Li-ion batteries. I just say that to make the point that this research was probably not something that many people have the depth of understanding to do.

Re:Catalyst Theory? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#37870008)

An actual qualified scientist posting on Slashdot?

I'm surprised.

Re:Catalyst Theory? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37869874)

There's a fundamental problem with the way you've asked your question. A catalyst is, by definition, a material or compound which lowers the activation energy of a reaction without itself being consumed by the reaction. That part is simple, and is well understood by modern transition state theory. The difficult part is the mechanism by which a specific catalyst lowers the activation energy of a reaction. This is quite a different question. As hindsight is 20/20, it is usually possible to determine the mechanism by which a known catalyst works, but even this can sometimes be a grueling experimental and theoretical task. It is also possible to design catalysts based on what we know about the mechanisms of old catalysts (witness the explosion in organometallic catalysis in the chemical industry in the last 50 years), though this often requires a significant degree of trial and error as well as chemical intuition to optimize such a reaction. In general, actually designing a catalyst from first principles is a monumentally difficult task. Some theoreticians claim it can be done, but it's actually quite difficult to reliably design a catalyst that will do what you want it to as efficiently as possible.

Some questions here. (3, Interesting)

CFD339 (795926) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868606)

First, "at a rate 10 times the previous gold standard" is interesting, but meaningless. What is the actual rate, and how is it measured?

Second, what is the cost and availability of the materials needed for the catalyst? Does this require some kind of unobtainium? The article is very vague here.

Third, Is this something we can practically manufacture in any kind of real scale or are we talking microscopic results measurable only in the lab?

Re:Some questions here. (5, Informative)

Arlet (29997) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868660)

Second, what is the cost and availability of the materials needed for the catalyst? Does this require some kind of unobtainium? The article is very vague here.

If I'm not mistaken, the materials are listed right there, in the abstract:

Ba0.5Sr0.5Co0.8Fe0.2O3

(Barium, Strontium, Cobalt and Iron, all abundant)

Re:Some questions here. (1)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868958)

First, "at a rate 10 times the previous gold standard" is interesting, but meaningless.

Rp = Reactions per time unit

Rn = 10 (Rp)

For Rp previous best rate, Rn new rate

Re:Some questions here. (1)

Arlet (29997) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868996)

That still doesn't mean much. It would be nice to know what percentage of incoming energy from the light is actually converted into splitting water molecules.

Does this compare favorably with a regular PV cell + electrolysis, for instance ?

Re:Some questions here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37869162)

It seems that the point is that this represents a 10x improvement in efficiency. It may not be an applied technology yet, but its real progress. One should remember that the first airplane flew only 120 feet but it was 120x better than what came before it.

Re:Some questions here. (1)

Arlet (29997) | more than 2 years ago | (#37869890)

One should remember that the first airplane flew only 120 feet but it was 120x better than what came before it.

You mean the second airplane flew only 120 feet, and the first one flew a foot.

And the point about 10x efficiency is well understood, but it would be nice if the old or new efficiency was mentioned in the article using some reference that could be understood.

Re:Some questions here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37869500)

Growing plants compares favorabley to PV + electrolysis.

Re:Some questions here. (1)

fluffy99 (870997) | more than 2 years ago | (#37870706)

First, "at a rate 10 times the previous gold standard" is interesting, but meaningless.

Rp = Reactions per time unit

Rn = 10 (Rp)

For Rp previous best rate, Rn new rate

Rp is just the benchmark of a standard method, not the previous best rate. So this isn't necessarily a 10x improvement over previous methods. Kinda like saying a standard lead-acid battery is the gold standard for batteries.

Re:Some questions here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37869072)

In the abstract, they state "at least an order of magnitude higher". Which is NOT meaningless. Even If you don't know what the rate is of the "gold standard". This is 10 times better.

Re:Some questions here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37869362)

According to the article, it's Ba-Sr-Co-Fe-O (Barium, Strontium, Cobalt, Iron, Oxygen)

Re:Some questions here. (0)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#37869394)

First, "at a rate 10 times the previous gold standard" is interesting, but meaningless. What is the actual rate, and how is it measured?

- what they did was they introduced a fiat that was backed by a gold reserve at first, a unit of that currency could be exchanged at a fixed rate, but then they removed the gold reserve from it and now it's just an unbacked security, which means it can be inflated without having to add any value into the system. So while they claim that the rate is 10 times the previous gold standard, what they are failing to mention is that the amount of oxygen that can be split in a single reaction is reduced by 10 times as well. So they can release 10 times as many oxygen atoms but it takes 10 times the amount of energy to do it. The institution responsible for the amount of this fiat is a semi-private corporation now in charge of oxygen supply to the planet and the government has only tangential relationship to it. The securitization of the oxygen catalyst obligation is now underway, the markets are ecstatic as more and more fiat catalist is being pumped into the system allowing the inflation to hide the true rate of oxygen return by private enterprise, and the government guarantees the rate of return and all of the collateral obligations, so it's definitely a very healthy bull market from now on.

Nothing will go wrong.

Re:Some questions here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37870480)

Kudos sir, I needed a good chuckle this morning.

Re:Some questions here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37870068)

Fourth, what is the lifetime/serviceable period in which this lasts versus traditional catalysts? What fraction of time of traditionals?

HA! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37868804)

They need to find that catalyst that'll GET YOU VIRGINS LAID!

KEK.

Re:HA! (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868900)

If money doesn't work for you? You're out of luck.

Won't save us. (1)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 2 years ago | (#37868824)

Oxygen Destroyer is what we'll need by the end of next year.

Re:Won't save us. (1)

necro81 (917438) | more than 2 years ago | (#37869180)

Not looking forward to the U.S. Presidential election?

Re:Won't save us. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37869518)

Nice Gojira reference! Good job!

I smell a new SYFY movie (1)

Gideon Wells (1412675) | more than 2 years ago | (#37869114)

Cobalt-9. All the water on Earth gets transformed due to this. Then explodes in a highly combustible way.

How does this catalyst work? (2)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 2 years ago | (#37869244)

Do you still run electricity through the water, but first you 'dope' the water with the catalyst, and the hydrogen/oxygen separation happens with same rate with less energy input/faster rate with same input?

They mentioned something in the article about an "artificial leaf", so does that mean that you use sunlight as the energy input instead of electricity, and the sunlight drives the reaction with the catalyst?

Re: Can't reduce the energy required, period. (0)

NReitzel (77941) | more than 2 years ago | (#37869412)

Sorry, there is no way to reduce the amount of energy it takes to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen.

This magic catalyst makes it go faster, but there is an absolute, defined energy required, and it would take an Act of God to modify this.

If you want hydrogen fuel, great, but you have to put in as much energy as you get out later. Some forms of energy are more convenient than others, for instance "sunlight in desert" is less useful than, say a couple gallons of gasoline. Catalysts let you shuffle them around faster, but they do not let you set aside the laws of thermodynamics.

100% efficiency. . . (2)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 2 years ago | (#37869562)

Wait, so you're saying that we were already at 100% efficiency? My understanding of it (which may be flawed), is that previously, with electrolysis, a lot of energy was being *wasted*? That is, it wasn't being used to split they water, but I dunno, generate waste heat or something?

So, unless you are at 100% efficiency, you should be able to generate hydrogen with less energy if you can find a way to reduce the *wasted* part of the energy. There is, sure, an upper limit on how low the energy can go, since I do agree that there is an absolute amount of energy always necessary to split the compound apart.

So, does this catalyst reduce the waste?

Re:100% efficiency. . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37870010)

So, does this catalyst reduce the waste?

Possibly. I haven't read the paper, but in electrolysis there's a concept called "overvoltage". That is, typically you need to apply more voltage to a system in order to get it to go than theoretically should be required. Usually, the cruder and less efficient your setup, the more overvoltage you need. Additionally, in practice more voltage is also used to speed up the reaction as well. Since there's a 1-1 stoichiometry of electrons to hydrogen atoms, the more electrons (i.e. current) you pass through, the more output you get (although the extra power is wasted as heat). More voltage means more current for the same setup. If you get a better rate of reaction, you get a faster rate of electron consumption for the same voltage (effectively "lower resistance"), meaning you don't need to increase the voltage as much to get the same rate of hydrogen production.

Re: Can't reduce the energy required, period. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37869602)

So? Using "renewable" energy sources to feed the catalyst process to store hydrogen is much better than all the resources used to explore and dig oil and gas, plus the lower environmental impact.

Re: Can't reduce the energy required, period. (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 2 years ago | (#37870118)

"plus the lower environmental impact."

This is a statement I see repeated very frequently (in some form or another) by environmentalists. It may even be true. The problem is, I've yet to see a rigorous defense of this claim. . .

Most environmentalists don't seem to take into account:

The rare earths and toxic compounds needed to build lots, and lots, and lots, and lots of Wind Turbines, Solar PV panels, or Solar reflectors (for concentrated solar-thermal power plants).

When you mine rare-earths, you will probably also generate waste streams. How toxic or radioactive are those "tailings" going to be? What is the plan for safely dealing with the tailings?

The massive amounts of concrete, aluminum, steel, and other resources which will need to be produced to build lots, and lots, and lots of wind turbines and solar systems?

The fuel which will be burned by all the construction equipment (bulldozers, concrete trucks, cranes, transport trucks for the components to build these things)?

Right now, I'm a bit worried that the "green" revolution will end up doing more harm to the environment than good, though I hope to be wrong.

Re: Can't reduce the energy required, period. (2)

Bemopolis (698691) | more than 2 years ago | (#37870936)

In case you aren't just being an ass, I'll avoid being one (just this once) and ask...

How does your list of ecological atrocities compare to that for the extraction of fossil fuels? Unless it is wildly out of balance (and it's not), the net gain comes from not injecting X amount of mega-million-years-old sequestered carbon per joule created into the atmosphere.

Re:How does this catalyst work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37869720)

Artificial Leaf
http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/artificial-leaf-0930.html

It is basically a photovoltaic cell, with different catalysts on each side. Immerse it in water, shine sunlight on it and the photovoltaic cell creates electricity which interacts with the catalysts to split water into oxygen and hyrogen. This new catalyst splits oxygen from water 10 times more efficiently, so it should improve the overall efficiency of the Artificial Leaf.

Re:How does this catalyst work? (1)

JSBiff (87824) | more than 2 years ago | (#37870466)

Ok, so since it's ultimately driven by electricity, it sounds like you could use other sources like hydro, geothermal, nuclear, or wind. The artificial leaf is a novel idea, but I'm also interested in how useful this application might be for industrial-scale hydrogen production using non-fossil-fuel energy sources other than sunlight.

Re:How does this catalyst work? (1)

avandesande (143899) | more than 2 years ago | (#37870446)

The problem with electrolytic hydrogen is that electricity is expensive, not that the process is inefficient.

Ridiculous (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37869334)

this is a ridiculous story. There can't be a "catalyst" to split water, it takes an energy input to split hydrogen and oxtygen.

Re:Ridiculous (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 2 years ago | (#37869756)

Not exactly.

If the catalyst were to lower the activation energy to, for example, the amount of energy present in water at 219 kelvin (around 4 degrees), then refrigerated water would simply fizz off when exposed to the catalyst. Water kept colder than the standard 4 degrees in the fridge--say 3.5 degrees--would remain water until some external force applied heat.

Of course we get the other obvious problem here. When you burn hydrogen and oxygen, you get water and heat; when you reverse this process, obviously, you will require energy input (likely heat, sometimes electricity). So the thing will probably get colder until it passes 4 degrees, then cease reacting.

This means if you use it for, say, a car, then you will want to run the exhaust system directly through the fuel (water) tank from the inside, through a heat exchanger, to keep the water warm by reclaiming waste heat. It also means your major commodity fuel is stored heat energy. It also means that as you burn this off, you're going to get colder despite any reclamation system: your car will eventually need to settle and warm up. The car won't work in cold weather. And so on.

More importantly, the amount of energy you get out per unit is equal to the energy lost in that split: to raise the temperature of an engine to a few hundred degrees, you have to drop the temperature of an equivalent mass of water by that amount. If you're running electric through hydrogen fuel cells, same deal: to generate 300kW of power, you're sucking heat out of that thing at a rate of 300kW load (equivalent to an absolutely 100% efficiency 300kW refrigerator!). If you're doing electrical hydrolysis supported by catalyst, you still have the same problem: it won't self-power any better with or without the catalyst, because you need to power the electrodes as well as the engine.

Water is not a magic solution to anything.

Water Purification (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | more than 2 years ago | (#37869970)

This could be a source for water purification.

I would think you would need some way to reduce the salt first tho.

Perhaps large solar based plastic evaporator collectors. The condensate would flow into cells based on these catylsts producing clean water.

The "leafs" they showed here a few weeks ago might be a better solution tho.

Magic! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37870612)

What they fail to mention is that it requires Dihydrogen Monoxide [dhmo.org] which is highly dangerous to humans when inhaled and can lead to suffocation. They should immediately ban this voodoo.
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