Frontiers in Energy Research: Fall 2016

Making Oxygen Obvious

New device solves long-term problem with turning water into clean, efficient hydrogen fuel

Scientists created a precise, reliable, and easy-to-use device that detects an intricate reaction that, one day, could improve our energy-producing capabilities. Image courtesy Nathan Johnson, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Break water molecules under the right conditions and you get two gases: hydrogen and oxygen. Add that hydrogen to fuel cells to get energy for your computer, home, and car. With water, the challenge is knowing if it actually split, which takes intricate, often-invisible reactions. At the Center for Solar Fuels, scientists found a way to detect the breakup. The team’s device, called a collector-generator cell, uses two electrodes. One splits the water; the other detects the resulting oxygen. The device is precise, reliable, and easy to use. It provides data that could lead to fuel cells playing a larger role on the world’s energy stage. The University of North Carolina led the research; the U.S. Department of Energy funded it through an Energy Frontier Research Center.

More Information: 

Sherman BD, MV Sheridan, KR Wee, N Song, CJ Dares, Z Fang, Y Tamaki, A Nayak, and TJ Meyer. 2016. “Analysis of Homogeneous Water Oxidation Catalysis with Collector-Generator Cells.” Inorganic Chemistry 55(2):512-517. DOI: 10.1021/acs.inorgchem.5b02182

Sherman BD, MV Sheridan, CJ Dares, and TJ Meyer. 2016. “Two Electrode Collector-Generator Method for the Detection of Electrochemically or Photoelectrochemically Produced O2.” Analytical Chemistry 88(14):7076-7082. DOI: 10.1021/acs.analchem.6b00738

Disclaimer: The opinions in this newsletter are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views or position of the Department of Energy.