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Indian Scientists Create a System for Producing Energy-Efficient Hydrogen

In urea electrolysis, the energy-intensive equivalent of water splitting, oxygen evolution, can be replaced with urea oxidation. For this process, low-cost, earth-abundant Ni-based catalysts are extensively used.

Abha Toppo
Hydrogen Plant
Hydrogen Plant

According to an official statement released on Wednesday, Indian scientists have developed an electrocatalyst system for energy-efficient hydrogen synthesis using urea electrolysis, which is useful for urea-based waste treatment and low-cost hydrogen production.

Through urea electrolysis, the energy required to produce hydrogen through water electrolysis can be lowered by 70%.

In urea electrolysis, the energy-intensive equivalent of water splitting, oxygen evolution, can be replaced with urea oxidation. For this process, low-cost, earth-abundant Ni-based catalysts are extensively used.

"The main challenge associated with urea oxidation is maintaining the catalyst's prolonged activity because strong adsorption of the reactive intermediate (COx) on the active site, referred to as catalyst poisoning, causes activity loss," according to a statement from the Science and Technology Ministry.

Alex C., Gaurav Shukla, Muhammed Safeer N.K., and Neena S. John of the Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences (CeNS), an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology, developed a nickel oxide (NiOx) based system for producing hydrogen from electro-oxidation of urea to achieve this goal.

They investigated electrocatalysts in a series of papers published in the journals Electrochimica Acta and Journal of Materials Chemistry and found that surface deficient NiO and Ni2O3 systems with more Ni3+ ions are more efficient electrocatalysts than standard NiO.

"Urea electrolysis is useful for urea-based waste treatment and hydrogen production at a low cost. India is one of the world's leading producers of urea, with 244.55 lakh metric tonnes produced in 2019-20. As effluents, the nitrogenous fertilizer industry produces a high concentration of ammonia and urea. This can be used for energy production for the benefit of our country," the scientists claimed.

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