The problem with hydrolysis is that it is not particularly efficient because
power is needed to produce the electrical current that breaks the hydrogen and
oxygen out of the water. The other issue that makes hydrolysis expensive to
perform is that the electrodes used tend to be made from very expensive and
precious metals like platinum.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have
developed a new
catalyst material that can be used for hydrolysis in water. Rather than
expensive metals like platinum, the new material devised at MIT uses cobalt
The researchers hope to use the new catalyst material to develop a
closed-loop system that can make hydrogen with power gathered from solar energy
or other electrical sources. The closed-loop concept would have hydrogen and
water running though a fuel cell and the water would be recaptured and used
The researchers hope that within ten years the technology will yield a
cost-effective system that combines clean energy generation with storage. The
new catalyst material can operate in plain water at normal atmospheric
John turner from the National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL) says the
work from MIT is a "significant result" reports News.com. Turner goes on to say, "The initial results look
promising but it doesn't answer all the things you need in a catalyst."
MIT has patented the research and researchers at MIT in the electrical and
mechanical engineering departments have committed to working with the research.
Ultimately, the researchers envision a system for use in homes around the world
that could be free from the power grid and have the ability to make and store
enough power to be self-sufficient.
In late 2007, researchers from Penn State University developed a process for
making hydrogen using microbes rather than electricity.