Water splitting by heterogeneous catalysis

Sammanfattning: A sustainable solution for meeting the energy demands at our planet is by utilizing wind-, solar-, wave-, thermal-, biomass- and hydroelectric power. These renewable and CO2 emission-free energy sources are highly variable in terms of spatial and temporal availability over the Earth, introducing the need for an appropriate method of storing and carrying energy. Hydrogen has gained significant attention as an energy storage- and carrier media because of the high energy density that is exploited within the ‘power-to-gas’ process chain. A robust way of producing sustainable hydrogen is via electrochemical water splitting.In this work the search for new heterogeneous catalyst materials with the aim of increasing energy efficiency in water splitting has involved methods of both electrochemical water splitting and chemical water oxidation. Some 21 compounds including metal- oxides, oxofluorides, oxochlorides, hydroxide and metals have been evaluated as catalysts. Two of these were synthesized directly onto conductive backbones by hydrothermal methods. Dedicated electrochemical cells were constructed for appropriate analysis of reactions, with one cell simulating an upscale unit accounting for realistic large scale applications; in this cell gaseous products are quantified by use of mass spectrometry. Parameters such as real time faradaic efficiency, production of H2 and O2 in relation to power input or overpotentials, Tafel slopes, exchange current density and electrochemical active surface area as well as turnover numbers and turnover frequencies have been evaluated.Solubility, possible side reactions, the role of the oxidation state of catalytically active elements and the nature of the outermost active surface layer of the catalyst are discussed. It was concluded that metal oxides are less efficient than metal based catalysts, both in terms of energy efficiency and in terms of electrode preparation methods intended for long time operation. The most efficient material was Ni-Fe hydroxide electrodeposited onto Ni metal foam as conductive backbone. Among the other catalysts, Co3Sb4O6F6 was of particular interest because the compound incorporate a metalloid (Sb) and redox inert F and yet show pronounced catalytic performance.In addition, performance of materials in water splitting catalysis has been discussed on the basis of results from electron microscopy, solubility experiments and X-ray diffraction data.

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