The approach from researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology and National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in Greece is expected to make hydrogen fuel a more viable energy source in the future and meet the technological challenge of developing clean and renewable energy without depleting earth’s natural preserves.

The research was recently published in the journal ChemSusChem (Chemistry & Sustainability Energy & Materials).

Missouri S&T associate professor of chemistry Manashi Nath and her colleagues describe how a catalyst using the metal nickel tetrahedrally coordinated to selenium in a coordination complex lead to a more efficient way to splitting water through electrolysis.

Researchers expect the use of nickel to make the process of water splitting more feasible to develop clean hydrogen as an energy source from water.

The research team demonstrated that an electrocatalyst featuring nickel and selenium is able to produce hydrogen and oxygen from water in a less expensive manner, compared to other methods.

Nath said their work shows that it is possible to obtain a full water splitting with high production efficiency and stability with a simple and affordable catalyst featuring nickel and selenium.

“The novelty of this work is twofold. First, nickel is the main catalytic center which is known to be earth abundant, and second, that same catalyst can be used for both hydrogen and oxygen generation, which dramatically reduces complexity and cost of the device,” Nath said.

Nath added that very few reports are available where the same catalyst can be used for both of oxygen and hydrogen production.

Nath said: “I strongly believe that developing technology for clean and renewable energy generation is crucial.

“In this quest, materials innovation plays an even bigger role. Being chemists, our duty is to try to design environmentally friendly new functional materials with high performance for the next generation energy devices.”