Carbon-based Catalyst May Be Key Step to Clean Hydrogen

Researchers at UC Santa Cruz have developed a nanostructured composite material that has shown impressive performance as a catalyst for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. The new material is seen as a superior alternative for efficient but impractical catalysts based on platinum.  

Ruthenium added to carbon nitride

The composite incorporates ruthenium ions into a sheet-like nanostructure composed of carbon nitride. To boost performance further, the team combined the ruthenium-doped carbon nitride with graphene, a sheet-like form of carbon, to form a layered composite.

The ruthenium ions embedded in the carbon nitride nanosheets change the distribution of electrons in the matrix, creating more active sites for the binding of protons to generate hydrogen. Adding graphene to the structure further enhances the redistribution of electrons.

While the electrocatalytic performance of the composite was comparable to that of commercial platinum catalysts, the researchers point out that they still have a long way to go to achieve cheap and efficient hydrogen production.

For more information about this work, see the published findings in ChemSusChem.