Improved Electrocatalysts for Fuel Cells and Electrolysis

Background: Developing catalysts that effectively split water into its elements is critical to storing renewable energy in a practical way. wind and solar energy for example can be harnessed for electrolysis and then stored as the resulting hydrogen gas. Another green technology – fuel cells – works in the opposite direction by consuming oxygen. However a substantial amount of energy traditionally has been required to drive such reactions – more than theoretically predicted. Efforts to reduce this ‘overpotential’ using specialized mixed-metal anodes and cathodes have been frustrated. Specifically it is challenging to develop materials that withstand degradation and don’t require expensive precious metals. Technology Description: UW–Madison researchers have developed mixed-metal electrodes such as anodes useful in water hydrolysis reactions to generate oxygen or cathodes to consume oxygen in a fuel cell. The electrodes are made of at least three metal oxides including nickel oxide and cobalt oxide. They can be prepared by mixing water soluble salts of the metals typically presented as the nitrate in a solvent. The resulting solutions are blended to produce a desired ratio of metals. The blend is coated on an electrode and then heated to calcine the deposits. Applications: 1) Water electrolysis 2) Fuel cells 3) Generating hydrogen for automobiles and storage 4) Generating oxygen gas for industries like steel making 5) Large scale production or residential generation of hydrogen fuel from renewable resources


1) Materials are available and low cost 2) Improves efficiency by reducing overpotential requirements

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