[Researcher of the Month] New Synthesis of Metal-metalloid Material with Improved Catalyst Efficiency and Durability
Professor Song Tae-seup (Department of Energy Engineering)
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Professor Song Tae-seup (Department of Energy Engineering) published “Electronically Double-Layered Metal Boride Hollow Nanoprism as an Excellent and Robust Water Oxidation Electrocatalysts” in the scientific journal Advanced Energy Materials on February 12th, 2019. Beginning with theories at the end of 2017 and proceeding from experimental analysis to demonstrations for a total of a year and half, this research was a joint effort between many excellent domestic and foreign researchers.
Metal-metalloid compounds as water oxidation catalysts
A catalyst is needed in order to create hydrogen and oxygen through water electrolysis. For this catalyst, metal-metalloid materials based on transition metals such as nickel, cobalt, and iron are actively being researched. The strong electro negativity of metalloids allows transition metals to have a high level of vitalization, giving them exceptional properties as a water electrolysis catalyst.
The research team succeeded in making a synthesis of cobalt nickel boride (V-CNB) with doped vanadium using the atomic layer deposition (ALD) method of construction on metal-metalloid materials of hollow structure. The vanadium metalized using the ALD facilitates the catalysis by spreading electrons to the surface and the interior. It also allows stable generation of hydrogen even in the electrolyte, which has a high PH, by blocking the dissolution of metallic elements. The metal-metalloid catalyst material shows higher durability compared to the previous catalyst of noble metals, and increased hydrogen production energy efficiency by more than 3 percent as well as lowered the unit cost of catalysts by more than 50 percent.
The rising need for high durability catalyst material with a low unit price
The price of "green hydrogen" produced through water electrolysis and photoelectrolysis is currently much more expensive than the "grey hydrogen" which is produced through the refining process and gas reforming. The reason can be traced to a very low efficiency system. Korea’s efficiency of water electrolysis companies is lower than that of other developed countries', which are 68 and 80 percent respectively. In order to facilitate the realization of hydrogen economy and secure the competitiveness of domestic water electrolysis companies, development of the catalyst material with high efficiency, a low unit price, and high durability is essential.
Hanyang University, KITECH, and Seoul Women’s University synthesized the catalyst materials and proceeded with precise analysis, and analyzed the characteristics of electrochemistry. Hanyang University, KIST, and the University of Cologne in Germany made progress with simulation experiments that could support the theories and technologies, and Density Functional Theory (DFT) was calculated.
The new findings
Independently, using metal-metalloid material is not stable within the electrolyte due to the dissolution phenomenon of the metal element. Therefore, the focus was on improving the chemical and physical stability of the metallic element within the electrolyte, and advancing the efficiency of the metal-metalloid with quadruple elements. The ALD method of construction was used to evenly mix vanadium inside the metal-metalloid.
The research not only suggested a new synthesis method of metal-metalloid material that includes quadruple elements, but also proposed an alternative that could improve the catalyst efficiency while at the same time enhance durability. This technology can be adopted for various energy elements of the next generation and contribute to the creation of future new growth engines including photoelectrolysis of water, secondary batteries, fuel cells, and supercapacitors.
The next step
In Jaunary, the Korean government announced the "Hydrogen Economy Vitalization Roadmap" which proposed the objective per hydrogen industry value chain until 2040. As evident in the steps taken by the government, the development of technology that will help lower the unit cost of hydrogen production is crucial in order to boost the hydrogen economy. The eco-friendly green hydrogen especially needs a reduction in the production unit price.
Song plans to proceed with in-depth technological research to expand the domestic energy industry with sustainable clean energy. As time passed, he realized the importance of challenging oneself to research various other fields along with the flow of the generation. He advised Hanyang students, “If the foundation is not robust, you cannot build a great house above it. The basic studies that students encounter during their undergraduate studies will be the very foundational foothold in society.”
Kim Hyun-soo email@example.com
Photos by Park Geun-hyung
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