UNSW Sydney chemists have invented a new, cheap catalyst for splitting water with an electrical current to efficiently produce clean hydrogen fuel.
The technology is based on the creation of ultrathin slices of porous metal-organic complex materials coated onto a foam electrode, which the researchers have unexpectedly shown is highly conductive of electricity and active for splitting water.
"Splitting water usually requires two different catalysts, but our catalyst can drive both of the reactions required to separate water into its two constituents, oxygen and hydrogen," says study leader Associate Professor Chuan Zhao.
"Our fabrication method is simple and universal, so we can adapt it to produce ultrathin nanosheet arrays of a variety of these materials, called metal-organic frameworks.
"Compared to other water-splitting electro-catalysts reported to date, our catalyst is also among the most efficient," he says.