Posted in | News | Green Energy | Hydrogen

Biopolymer-Coated Nanocatalyst Could Drive a Hydrogen Fuel-Based Future

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com / peterschreiber.media

A newly devised nanorod catalyst could help water splitting by sunlight become a viable and eco-friendly route to hydrogen fuel.

Humanity’s consumption of fossil fuels drives massive detrimental changes to the environment, releasing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that are fueling the climate change crisis. Thus, a long-term sustainable alternative fuel source that is environmentally friendly is desperately needed.

One possible alternative for fossil fuels that has been proposed by researchers for some time is hydrogen (H2). The Universe’s most abundant element, hydrogen, is a high-energy-density molecule, and when it is used as a fuel, it produces only water as a by-product  —  making it a clean alternative to fossil fuels too.

Yet, despite these positive points, there’s a hitch associated with the use of hydrogen as a fuel. 

Whilst the combustion of hydrogen to produce energy and water is eco-friendly, the production of hydrogen itself isn’t so beneficial to the environment. There is an eco-friendly way of creating hydrogen, though. Sunlight can be used to split water and liberate hydrogen, but this isn’t energy-efficient, suffering because of the low stability of the material that catalysizes the reaction  —  the photocatalyst. 

Now an international team of researchers thinks they may have hit upon a solution to this problem. The scientists, led by Assistant Professor Yeonho Kim from Incheon National University in Korea, believe they may have created a stable and efficient photocatalyst to assist sunlight in splitting water and freeing hydrogen.

In a paper published in the journal Applied Catalysis B: Environmental, the team discusses their newly developed catalysts and their impressive results.

Improved Hydrogen Production and Stability

The method the team has developed hinges upon the use of polydopamine (PDA)-coated zinc sulfide (ZnS) nanorods as a photocatalyst as opposed to the ZnS material currently used to catalysize the process. 

“ZnS has various photochemical applications because it can rapidly generate electric charge carriers under sunlight,” Kim explains. “However, sunlight also causes oxidation of sulfide ions leading to photocorrosion of ZnS.”

The researchers found that when they used the PDA ZnS nanorods in the water-splitting process it yielded a staggering 220% increase in hydrogen production when compared to the yield produced by the same process catalysized by a ZnS catalyst. In addition to this, the team found that after being exposed to sunlight for 24 hours their catalyst retained almost 80% of its catalytic capabilities. 

Recently, studies showed that controlled-thickness PDA coatings on a photocatalyst can improve conversion efficiency for solar energy and enhance photostability. But, so far, no study has addressed the physicochemical changes at the interface of ZnS/PDA. Therefore, we wanted to study the effect of PDA binding on the photocatalytic performance of ZnS.

Yeonho Kim, Assistant Professor, Incheon National University, Korea

Wider Applicability

The researchers tested 3 prototype catalysts that varied in PDA thickness  —  ranging from 1.2 nm to 3.5 nm  —  to find which had the greatest photocatalytic performance. This was achieved by measuring how much hydrogen they caused the water-splitting process to produce whilst exposed to simulated sunlight.

This testing demonstrated that the ZnS nanorod with the thinner PDA covering  —  which the scientists dubbed  —  ZnS/PDA1 produced the most hydrogen. In terms of performance, this was followed by ZnS/PDA2 with a 2.1 nm PDA coating, and then an uncoated nanorod. The nanorod with the thickest coating performed the worst in the testing, catalysizing a reaction that yielded the least hydrogen.

The team believes that the thicker coatings suffered in performance terms because the PDA coating absorbs a little sunlight  —  thus, the thicker the coating, the less light that reached the ZnS core, thus impeding the reaction. 

The researchers also set about discovering how the arrangement of electrons  —  the electronic structure  —  in the improved catalyst affects its performance. Their analysis revealed that the enhanced light absorption was due to the formation of zinc oxide (ZnO) and Zinc oxysulphide (ZnO,S) nanoparticle shells on the ZnS nanorod.

This ultimately resulted in a ‘doubly staggered’ electronic arrangement that assists the transport and separation of charge carriers like electrons across the surface of the nanorod. The electronic structure also meant a reduced oxidative capacity, massively boosting durability.

“The polydopamine coating utilized in our work is also applicable to other groups of selenide, boride, and telluride-based catalysts,” concludes Kim, indicating that the catalyst could have a wide range of applications.

Reference

1. Kim. Y., Coy. E., Kim. H., et al, [2021], Applied Catalysis B: Environmental, [https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apcatb.2020.119423]

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Robert Lea

Written by

Robert Lea

Robert is a Freelance Science Journalist with a STEM BSc. He specializes in Physics, Space, Astronomy, Astrophysics, Quantum Physics, and SciComm. Robert is an ABSW member, and aWCSJ 2019 and IOP Fellow.

Citations

Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Lea, Robert. (2021, February 24). Biopolymer-Coated Nanocatalyst Could Drive a Hydrogen Fuel-Based Future. AZoCleantech. Retrieved on February 28, 2024 from https://www.azocleantech.com/news.aspx?newsID=28922.

  • MLA

    Lea, Robert. "Biopolymer-Coated Nanocatalyst Could Drive a Hydrogen Fuel-Based Future". AZoCleantech. 28 February 2024. <https://www.azocleantech.com/news.aspx?newsID=28922>.

  • Chicago

    Lea, Robert. "Biopolymer-Coated Nanocatalyst Could Drive a Hydrogen Fuel-Based Future". AZoCleantech. https://www.azocleantech.com/news.aspx?newsID=28922. (accessed February 28, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Lea, Robert. 2021. Biopolymer-Coated Nanocatalyst Could Drive a Hydrogen Fuel-Based Future. AZoCleantech, viewed 28 February 2024, https://www.azocleantech.com/news.aspx?newsID=28922.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have a review, update or anything you would like to add to this news story?

Leave your feedback
Your comment type
Submit
Azthena logo

AZoM.com powered by Azthena AI

Your AI Assistant finding answers from trusted AZoM content

Azthena logo with the word Azthena

Your AI Powered Scientific Assistant

Hi, I'm Azthena, you can trust me to find commercial scientific answers from AZoNetwork.com.

A few things you need to know before we start. Please read and accept to continue.

  • Use of “Azthena” is subject to the terms and conditions of use as set out by OpenAI.
  • Content provided on any AZoNetwork sites are subject to the site Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.
  • Large Language Models can make mistakes. Consider checking important information.

Great. Ask your question.

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.