Research Highlight

Producing low-cost hydrogen fuel with the help of magnets

doi:10.1038/nindia.2021.89 Published online 23 June 2021

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B) have shown how a magnetised catalyst can speed up the production of hydrogen gas1.

Water is a good a source of hydrogen but the chemical reaction required for the production of the gas requires an external source of energy. In a recent study, IIT-B researchers used a new catalyst for extracting hydrogen from water at a faster rate and with less energy. 

Normally, an electric current is passed across two electrodes inserted in water to separate the hydrogen, a process called electrolysis. Metals such as platinum, rhodium and iridium are known to speed up electrolysis, but these metals are expensive.

In their study, the IIT-B researchers turned to less costly transition metals that had more “valency” – the ability to exchange electrons with other compounds. They used a compound consisting of cobalt and oxygen and found that an electric field applied though the cobalt oxide to water molecules resulted in the electrolysis of water.

The researchers showed that the reaction speed increased by about three times when a small magnet was introduced near their setup. “A one-time exposure of the magnetic field is enough to achieve the high speed of hydrogen production for over 45 minutes,” said the report.

The team is optimistic that once hydrogen is produced in large amounts, it could be packed in cylinders and used as an environmentally friendly fuel to replace petroleum, diesel and compressed natural gas.


1. Saha, J. et al. Premagnetized carbon-catalyst interface delivering 650% enhancement in electrocatalytic kinetics of hydrogen evolution reaction. ACS Sustainable Chem. Eng. (2021) DOI: 10.1021/acssuschemeng.1c01095