The three main problems plaguing the global adoption of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are the high cost of fuel cells, lack of refueling infrastructure and above all, the high cost of producing hydrogen from water. While a team of auto giants has recently teamed up to reduce cost of fuel cells and companies like Air Products are creating renewable hydrogen refueling stations, the only drawback at the moment is the high cost of producing hydrogen using conventional means. Now it seems that the third problem too is on the brink of being solved as researchers at Princeton University and Rutgers University have teamed up to produce an inexpensive catalyst, inspired by natural organisms, to produce hydrogen from water at an affordable price.
Taking inspiration from bacteria that make use of enzymes, called di-iron hydrogenases, to make hydrogen from water, the team of researchers is using computer models to figure out how to replicate this enzyme magic using readily available materials and technology. The team has recently been able to figure out a solution to problem of catalyst poisoning due to the presence of oxygen in the reaction by creating a new catalyst that isn’t susceptible to oxygen.
Moreover, apart from being tolerant to oxygen, the catalyst achieves its results without sacrificing on efficiency. The researchers also note that the artificial catalyst can be made using abundant and cheap components such as iron, something which indicates that the cost of producing hydrogen will be reduced.