Research Highlights

Heat-resistant nanocatalyst for making carbon-free fuel

Published online 26 October 2017

Scientists invent a safe, cheap process for making a hydrogen-generating nanocatalyst.

Biplab Das

Hydrogen, an excellent alternative to carbon-rich fossil fuels, is mostly produced using expensive platinum-based catalysts. To overcome this drawback, scientists have created a new brand of nanocatalyst using a reportedly cheap, chemical-free process. 

This nanocatalyst forms through a self-assembly process that mimics the way in which cutin, a natural 'waxy' biopolymer that forms a plant's cuticle, organizes itself. As well, it has been found to be active at high temperatures — an attribute that makes it suitable for use in fuel cells. 

The new catalyst can also be used in making supercapacitors, lithium batteries and membranes, according to Vincent C. Tung, assistant professor at the department of materials science and engineering, University of California, USA and research co-author. His team included researchers from the Sanida National Lab, the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Yale University, USA and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. 

Tung et al. used external stimuli such as evaporating aerosol droplets and electric fields to initiate the self-assembly process which converted the typically two-dimensional sheets of molybdenum disulfide into three-dimensional ones. 

This eventually led to the formation of the nanocatalyst sans any harmful chemicals. 

While self-assembling, the catalyst sheets crumpled and formed nanopores, increasing the catalyst’s surface area — an essential property that efficiently supports hydrogen-generating reactions. 

The catalyst retained its efficiency and stability even after 2500 cycles of hydrogen-generating reactions, displaying a negligible decay only after 5000 cycles.


  1. Chen, Yen-Chang. et al. Structurally deformed MoS2 for electrochemically stable, thermally resistant, and highly efficient hydrogen evolution reaction. Adv. Mater. (2017)