Indian researchers discover manufacturing solution that could result in an environmentally friendly hydrogen fuel at a lower cost

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Researchers in India have discovered an innovative hydrogen manufacturing solution that increases its production and lowers the total energy required, which could pave the path towards environment-friendly hydrogen fuel at a lower cost.

As a fuel, hydrogen has a critical role to play in driving the shift towards a green and sustainable economy. In addition to having about three-fold higher calorific value compared to non-renewable energy sources such as coal and gasoline, the combustion of hydrogen to release energy produces water, which means that it is completely non-polluting.

Due to the extremely low abundance of molecular hydrogen in the earth’s atmosphere, electric-field driven breakdown of water is a popular route for the production of hydrogen. However, this electrolysis requires high energy input and is associated with a slow rate of hydrogen production. The use of expensive platinum and iridium-based catalysts also discourages it for widespread commercialisation. 

A team of researchers from The Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT Bombay) have come up with innovative solutions to all these challenges. It involves the electrolysis of water in the presence of an external magnetic field.

This is achieved by synergistically coupling the electric and magnetic fields at the catalytic site, this simple approach also provides the capability to retrofit any existing electrolyser (that uses electricity to break water into hydrogen and oxygen) with external magnets without a drastic change in the design, leading to the increased energy efficiency of H2 production.

“Given the importance of a hydrogen-based economy, we aim to implement the project in a mission mode and realise an indigenous magneto-electrolytic hydrogen generator,” C. Subramaniam, leading researcher of the project at IIT Bombay, said. “If their efforts are successful, we might be looking at an environmentally friendly fuel, hydrogen, replacing petroleum, diesel, and compressed natural gas (CNG) in the future.”

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