Home » The Creation Of Eco-Friendly Fuel Can Be Done By Turning On A Light Switch

The Creation Of Eco-Friendly Fuel Can Be Done By Turning On A Light Switch

by Coffee Table Science

Researchers at Princeton and Rice University, U.S., have demonstrated a low-cost method by combining iron, copper, and basic LED light that could be crucial for spreading hydrogen, a fuel that has a high energy density and emits no carbon dioxide. The scientists developed a method employing nanotechnology to split hydrogen from liquid ammonia, a procedure that has previously been costly and energy-intensive. They did this through tests and sophisticated computing.

The researchers explain how they cracked the ammonia using light from a simple LED instead of the pricey materials or high temperatures that would normally be required for a typical chemical process. To realize hydrogen’s promise as a clean, low-emission fuel that could assist in meeting energy demands without aggravating climate change, a crucial barrier has been removed by the approach. “We hear a lot about hydrogen being the ultimate clean fuel, if only it was less expensive and easy to store and retrieve for use,” said Naomi Halas, a professor at Rice University and one of the study’s principal authors.

Image credits: Princeton University

What is the benefit of this study?

The research aimed to modify the splitting procedure to make ammonia a more economically and sustainably sound carrier for hydrogen fuels. Due to its potential to support a hydrogen economy, using ammonia as a hydrogen carrier has attracted significant research interest, as demonstrated by a recent review by the American Chemical Society.

Catalysts (substances that speed up a chemical reaction) are frequently used in industrial activities to break ammonia at high temperatures. Previous studies have shown that the use of a ruthenium catalyst can lower the reaction temperature. But the platinum group metal ruthenium is pricey. The researchers thought they could use nanotechnology to allow catalysts to be made out of less expensive materials like copper and iron.

But it took a lot of work to calibrate the parameters precisely. The researchers collaborated with principal author  Emily Carter, who specializes in thorough analyses of reactions at the molecular level, to examine how these variables affected the reaction. Carter and Junwei Lucas Bao, a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton, used the Terascale Infrastructure for Groundbreaking Research in Engineering and Science, a high-performance computing system, to run the reactions through her specialized quantum mechanics simulator. This simulator is specifically designed to study excited electron catalysis.

Image credits: freepik

What is the verdict of this study?

These reactions involve highly complicated molecular interactions, but Carter and her colleagues can utilize the simulator to determine which factors should be changed to advance the response. Using quantum mechanics simulations, we can discover the rate-limiting reaction stages, added Carter. 

The Rice team consistently extracted hydrogen from ammonia by fine-tuning the procedure and using the atomic-scale knowledge Carter and her colleagues offered. This was done at room temperature without any additional heating. According to the researchers, the method is scalable. 

This study was published in the journal Science.

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