|Researchers from Rice University developed a new cobalt based thin film catalyst, which pumps out hydrogen and oxygen to feed fuel cells. The inexpensive, highly porous material invented by the Rice laboratory of chemist James Tour may have advantages as a catalyst for the production of hydrogen via water electrolysis. A single film far thinner than a hair can be used as both the anode and cathode in an electrolysis device. The robust film could replace expensive metals like platinum in waterelectrolysis devices that produce hydrogen and oxygen for fuel cells.
The researchers led by Rice postdoctoral researcher Yang Yang published their findings in the journal Advanced Materials. They determined their cobalt film is much better at producing hydrogen than most state-of-the-art materials and is competitive with commercial platinum catalysts. They reported the catalyst also produced an oxygen evolution reaction comparable to current materials.The researchers suggested applying alternating current from wind or solar energy sources to cobalt-based electrolysis could be an environmentally friendly source of hydrogen and oxygen. The laboratory fabricated the 500-nanometer films by anodizing a cobalt film electrodeposited on a substrate. The assembly was then baked for two hours in a phosphorus vapor that converted it to a cobalt/phosphide/phosphate thin film without damaging the porous structure.