Recently, Yongye Liang’s research group developed an advanced electrocatalyst for efficient water splitting. He and his colleagues describe a facile synthetic approach for the electrocatalyst in a study ("Facile Synthesis of Nickel–Iron/Nanocarbon Hybrids as Advanced Electrocatalysts for Efficient Water Splitting") published in the journal "ACS Catalysis" (impact factor 9.312).
Conventional energy consumption pattern relying on fossil fuels has resulted in energy crisis of the world. Developing sustainable and clean energy is a vital challenge for human being. Among various proposed strategies, the most promising one for large-scale application is to employ solar energy as the source and hydrogen as the energy vector. To convert solar energy into chemical energy (H2), there are three popular technologies: photocatalytic water splitting; photoelectrochemical water splitting; coupling photovoltaic devices and electrocatalytic devices to produce hydrogen from water splitting. The technology to couple photovoltaic devices and electrocatalytic devices has achieved the best solar-to-hydrogen efficiency (＞10%) and stability. It is highly necessary to develop active, stable and low-cost electrocatalysts in place of precious metal-based materials for large scale applications.
Yongye Liang’s group developed a facile synthetic method which could convert the low-cost starting materials (urea, nickel salt and iron salt) into a hybrid with nickel-iron alloy nanoparticles coupled to carbon nanotubes. This simple synthesis route simultaneously realizesnanostructuring, doping, and hybridizing with nanocarbon, which have been demonstrated as efficient strategies to optimize catalytic activity of electrocatalyst. The in-situ formed hybrid exhibited excellent bifunctional catalytic activities to simultaneously facilitate the hydrogen evolution and oxygen evolution reactions. A symmetric two-electrode water splitting cells constructed by loading this catalyst on nickel foam only required a voltage of 1.58 V forsustaining a current density of 10 mA/cm-2 for water splitting. And also, this catalyst showed good stability with little performance degradation after continuous operation for 24 hours.
The first author of this paper is Xing Zhang. Coauthors include Haomin Xu (Senior undergraduate in SUSTC), Xiaoxiao Li, Yanyan Li, Tingbin Yang. The work was supported by “Recruitment Program of Global Experts”, basic research foundation and key laboratory program of Shenzhen, and startup support from SUSTC.