Research Highlight

Cheap catalyst for making hydrogen

doi:10.1038/nindia.2017.48 Published online 25 April 2017

Researchers have come up with a cheap way to make hydrogen which could potentially be used as clean fuel for cars and in the electronics industry1

Various catalysts such as platinum are used to electrochemically split water into hydrogen and oxygen. However, platinum is expensive, so in search of a cheap alternative, scientists from the CSIR-Central Electrochemical Research Institute in India synthesized nanorods of molybdenum trioxide and electrochemically reduced this trioxide to its lower oxides. They then used the lower oxides of molybdenum as catalyst to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

At the end of 50th cycles, production of hydrogen increased significantly and maintained this trend until the 70th cycle. Hydrogen production was enhanced up to 600 cycles, attributed to the creation of oxygen vacancies in the catalyst. Such vacancies increased hydrogen generation by speeding up electron transport.  

After 600 cycles, hydrogen generation began to decrease due to formation of gas bubbles on the electrode surface, which, in turn, disrupted the efficiency of the catalyst.   

“Since this catalyst helps produce hydrogen from water, it could be used in all electrolysis processes,” says lead researcher, Marappan Sathish.


1. Thangasamy, P. et al. Electrochemical cycling and beyond: unrevealed activation of MoOfor electrochemical hydrogen evolution reactions. Chem. Commun.53, 2245-2248 (2017)