While producing hydrogen by simply using solar energy and water seem to be the holy grail of clean energy, actually the process isn’t as simple as the one you might have tried out in your chemistry lab. Producing large quantities of hydrogen, while making use of minimum amount of electricity uses catalysts, which are usually, made using expensive and rare-earth metals, driving up the cost of hydrogen hence produced. As a solution, two chemistry professors from the University of Calgary have created a new method of water-splitting catalysts using abundant metals.
After patenting their production method, the duo has created a company called FireWater Fuel, and plans to have a product available as early as next year. The team hopes to build an electrolyzer that is affordable enough for businesses and consumers. While conventional catalysts for the same job are made using expensive metals like platinum, the researchers have produced films that are amorphous in their molecular shape and their disordered structure makes it more reactive.
The team now hopes to build a commercially viable electrolyzer, which makes use of low-cost catalyst to produce hydrogen and oxygen from water. Hydrogen hence produced by the system would be stored in tanks and fed in a fuel cell to produce electricity on demand. Initially the company intends to develop an electrolyzer that can produce hydrogen for energy storage at wind farms and then intends to create a commercial prototype of a freezer size electrolyzer by 2015 that would convert just a few liters of water into renewable electricity for consumers.