Researchers have discovered that cobalt and nickel may be essential to the manufacturing process. US scientists at the Worchester Polytechnic Institute are studying the process of producing hydrogen from urea. To this end, they have created a material consisting of nickel and cobalt atoms with precisely engineered electrical structures that may be used to extract urea from water and convert it to hydrogen gas.
Why make hydrogen from urea and what does it mean?
Urea is an inexpensive nitrogen fertilizer for farming. It is also an organic waste product that comes from human metabolism. According to scientists doing the investigation on hydrogen from urea production, 180 million metric tons of urea were produced worldwide in 2021 alone.
However, because urea-rich urban wastewater discharge and agricultural runoff lead to hypoxic dead zones and eutrophication-harmful algal blooms, they are detrimental to both human health and the aquatic ecosystem.
But because of its special qualities, urea might be used as a hydrogen storage medium and provide a practical on-demand hydrogen generation option. The authors cited urea as an example, noting that it is non-toxic, very soluble in water, and has a high hydrogen content (6.7% by weight). Therefore, urea electrolysis can be a more cost-effective and energy-efficient method of producing H2 than conventional water electrolysis.
The researchers can selectively oxidize urea thanks to their way of producing hydrogen.
To convert urea into hydrogen, urea electrolysis is required. The main obstacle to producing hydrogen from urea is the lack of accessible, highly effective electrocatalysts that will only oxidize urea rather than water.
Nevertheless, by developing electrocatalysts with distinct electronic structures made of nickel and cobalt atoms that interact synergistically, the scientists were able to solve the problems and achieve selective urea electro-oxidation.
The researchers were able to create transition metal hydroxides and oxides that could selectively oxidize urea through an electrochemical reaction by using the material they created from nickel and cobalt atoms with carefully controlled electronic structures.
Transforming energy from water
The discovery made by the researchers may prove useful in optimizing the usage of urea in waste streams for the electrolysis process of efficiently producing hydrogen. It might also be utilized to remove urea from water, which would help preserve ecological systems’ long-term sustainability and transform water energy.
The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters published the researchers’ manuscript on their urea-based hydrogen synthesis experiment.
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