Researchers in the Department of Chemistry and Centre for Advanced Solar Materials at the University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada have demonstrated a low temperature process—photochemical metal organic deposition–that can help reduce the cost of producing hydrogen from water.
At present, close to all of the hydrogen fuel produced in the United States is derived from natural gas; obtaining hydrogen from water is considerably more expensive. But, the new process uses less expensive and less toxic metals such as iron oxide as the catalyst, which could reduce commercial production costs substantially.
The research, which was published in a recent issue of Science Express, described the new process that allowed the large-scale electrolysis of water for hydrogen generation by using a less toxic and less expensive catalyst, iron oxide. Catalysts speed up reactions and usually are expensive because the materials needed to make them are rare, such as ruthenium and iridium, and are both very toxic and expensive.
According to the researchers, the cost-effective, scalable storage of renewable energy by means of converting water to hydrogen fuels electrochemically hinges on fundamental improvements in catalytic materials.
A spin-off company, based in Calgary, Firewater Fuel Corp., plans to commercialize the new electrolysis process by 2014.
To read the press release on the Firewater Fuel website, click here