Mastodon Scientific Frontline: Chemistry
Showing posts with label Chemistry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chemistry. Show all posts

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Rice lab’s catalyst could be key for hydrogen economy


Rice University researchers have engineered a key light-activated nanomaterial for the hydrogen economy. Using only inexpensive raw materials, a team from Rice’s Laboratory for Nanophotonics, Syzygy Plasmonics Inc. and Princeton University’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment created a scalable catalyst that needs only the power of light to convert ammonia into clean-burning hydrogen fuel.

The research is published in the journal Science.

The research follows government and industry investment to create infrastructure and markets for carbon-free liquid ammonia fuel that will not contribute to greenhouse warming. Liquid ammonia is easy to transport and packs a lot of energy, with one nitrogen and three hydrogen atoms per molecule. The new catalyst breaks those molecules into hydrogen gas, a clean-burning fuel, and nitrogen gas, the largest component of Earth’s atmosphere. And unlike traditional catalysts, it doesn’t require heat. Instead, it harvests energy from light, either sunlight or energy-stingy LEDs.

The pace of chemical reactions typically increases with temperature, and chemical producers have capitalized on this for more than a century by applying heat on an industrial scale. The burning of fossil fuels to raise the temperature of large reaction vessels by hundreds or thousands of degrees results in an enormous carbon footprint. Chemical producers also spend billions of dollars each year on thermocatalysts — materials that don’t react but further speed reactions under intense heating.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

A Radical New Approach in Synthetic Chemistry

The Laser Electron Accelerator Facility (LEAF) generates intense high-energy electron pulses that allow scientists to add or subtract electrons from molecules to make chemically reactive species and monitor what happens as a reaction proceeds.
Full Size Original
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory helped measure how unpaired electrons in atoms at one end of a molecule can drive chemical reactivity on the molecule’s opposite side. As described in a paper recently published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, this work, done in collaboration with Princeton University, shows how molecules containing these so-called free radicals could be used in a whole new class of reactions.

“Most reactions involving free radicals take place at the site of the unpaired electron,” explained Brookhaven Lab chemist Matthew Bird, one of the co-corresponding authors on the paper. The Princeton team had become experts in using free radicals for a range of synthetic applications, such as polymer upcycling. But they’ve wondered whether free radicals might influence reactivity on other parts of the molecule as well, by pulling electrons away from those more distant locations.

“Our measurements show that these radicals can exert powerful ‘electron-withdrawing’ effects that make other parts of the molecule more reactive,” Bird said.

The Princeton team demonstrated how that long-distance pull can overcome energy barriers and bring together otherwise unreactive molecules, potentially leading to a new approach to organic molecule synthesis.

Major discovery about mammalian brains surprises researchers

Illustration shows vacuolar-type adenosine triphosphatases (V-ATPases, large blue structures) on a synaptic vesicle from a nerve cell in the mammalian brain.
Illustration Image: C. Kutzner, H. Grubmüller and R. Jahn/Max Planck Institute for Multidisciplinary Sciences.

Major discovery about mammalian brains surprises researchers, University of Copenhagen researchers have made an incredible discovery. Namely, a vital enzyme that enables brain signals is switching on/off at random, even taking hours-long “breaks from work”. These findings may have a major impact on our understanding of the brain and the development of pharmaceuticals. 

Millions of neurons are constantly messaging each other to shape thoughts and memories and let us move our bodies at will. When two neurons meet to exchange a message, neurotransmitters are transported from one neuron to another with the aid of a unique enzyme.

This process is crucial for neuronal communication and the survival of all complex organisms. Until now, researchers worldwide thought that these enzymes were active at all times to convey essential signals continuously. But this is far from the case.

Using a groundbreaking method, researchers from the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Chemistry have closely studied the enzyme and discovered that its activity is switching on and off at random intervals, which contradicts our previous understanding.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

A Solution for Reclaiming Valuable Resources Flushed Down the Drain

A problem at sewage treatment plants - the buildup of 'brown grease' - could yield a bounty of biofuel, thanks to the work of UConn researchers
Photo Credit: kubinger

For the everyday products we use, a pattern has become numbingly familiar: Something is made, we use it, we throw it away. Yet, for a sustainable future – one where we don’t simply extract and toss resources – we need to make this linear process circular, says UConn Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Emeritus Professor Richard Parnas.

Parnas and his team research biodiesel and how to make it out of waste resources. Parnas also co-founded REA Resource Recovery Systems, which supported UConn Chemical Engineering graduate student Cong Liu Ph.D. ‘22 to develop technology to improve a critical process of removing sulfur from biodiesel made from waste materials. In this case, the materials originate from sewage, and the technology is being implemented in a project at Danbury’s John Oliver Memorial Sewer Plant scheduled to go into operation in January 2023 that will convert fats, oils, and grease into biodiesel whose lifecycle emissions are more than 74% lower than petroleum-based diesel.

Covid-19: the Spike protein is no longer the only target

Possible mechanism of action of a drug targeting Nsp1 of SARS-CoV-2. In infected cells, Nsp1 blocks the ribosome mRNA canal by acting as a "cap" that prevents the expression of the host's mRNA. Linking a ligand to the proposed cryptic pocket highlighted in purple could prevent blockage mediated by Nsp1 and, ultimately, restore the ability of the ribosome to initiate the translation of the mRNA.
Photo Credit: UNIGE Alberto Borsatto

A research team led by the UNIGE reveals a hidden cavity on a key SARS-CoV-2 protein to which drugs could bind.

With the continuous emergence of new variants and the risk of new strains of the virus, the development of innovative therapies against SARS-CoV-2 remains a major public health challenge. Currently, the proteins that are on the surface of the virus and/or are involved in its replication are the preferred therapeutic targets, like the Spike protein targeted by vaccines. One of them, the non-structural protein Nsp1, had been studied little until now. A team from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), in collaboration with University College London (UCL) and the University of Barcelona, has now revealed the existence of a hidden ''pocket’ on its surface. A potential drug target, this cavity opens the way to the development of new treatments against Covid-19 and other coronaviruses. These results can be found in the journal eLife.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Simplified process shines light on new catalyst opportunities

Members of the research team at the Institute for Chemical Reaction Design and Discovery (WPI-ICReDD), Hokkaido University. Top Row, Left to Right: Satoshi Maeda, Yu Harabuchi, Hiroki Hayashi, Hitomi Katsuyama. Bottom Row, left to right: Wataru Kanna, Hideaki Takano, Tsuyoshi Mita
Photo Credit: ICReDD

Theory-guided development of an easier, more versatile process for synthesizing unsymmetric ligands provides new avenues of exploration in transitional metal catalysis.

Researchers at the Institute for Chemical Reaction Design and Discovery (WPI-ICReDD) have discovered the key to synthesizing a molecular tool that could greatly expand the variety of catalytic reactions possible with transition metals. The team has taken a well-established set of compounds that can be used to make transition metal catalysts and developed a simple, radical-based reaction for creating unsymmetric variants of these molecules using mild conditions. Easier access to a wider variety of these unsymmetric compounds opens a realm of new possibilities for designing transition metal catalysts.

The focus of this research is on a class of compounds called 1,2-bis(diphenylphosphino)ethane derivatives (DPPEs). DPPEs are bidentate — i.e., they attach to the metal center of a catalyst in two locations. However, DPPEs have typically been symmetric, with each attachment arm being the same, which limits the possible structural variety and reactivity. This study overcomes that limit, reporting on a versatile method for developing unsymmetric DPPEs using ethylene, an abundantly available feedstock chemical.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Looking at oxygen storage dynamics in three-way catalysts

Photo Credit: kalhh

In light of vehicular pollutants contributing to decreasing air quality, governments across the globe are posing stricter emission regulations for automobiles. This calls for the development of more efficient exhaust gas after-treatment systems (i.e., systems to “clean” exhaust gas before it is released into the atmosphere). The most common mode for treating exhaust emissions of gasoline-fueled internal combustion engines are three-way catalysts (TWCs) or catalytic converters. TWCs often comprise active metals such as platinum (Pt) and palladium (Pd) nanoparticles and oxygen storage materials with a high specific surface area, such as a solid solution of CeO2-ZrO2(CZ). These components can catalyze multiple oxidation and reduction reactions that can convert harmful exhaust from vehicular engines to harmless gases.

The durability, precision, and performance of a TWC is dependent on factors like the oxygen stored or removed from the bulk and surface of the oxygen storage materials. So, clearly understanding the oxygen transport and dynamics of the storage material is necessary to improve its efficiency. Unfortunately, there is a lack of techniques that can enable direct tracking of the oxygen storage process in TWCs.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Toxins force construction of ‘roads to nowhere’

This image shows the effects of the toxin VopF, depicted in green in the cell on the left, on actin filaments, depicted in magenta in both cells.
Image Credit: Elena Kudryashova

Toxins released by a type of bacteria that cause diarrheal disease hijack cell processes and force important proteins to assemble into “roads to nowhere,” redirecting the proteins away from other jobs that are key to proper cell function, a new study has found.

The affected proteins are known as actins, which are highly abundant and have multiple roles that include helping every cell unite its contents, maintain its shape, divide and migrate. Actins assemble into thread-like filaments to do certain work inside cells.

Researchers found that two toxins produced by the Vibrio genus of bacteria cause actins to start joining together into these filaments – which could be thought of as cellular highways on which cargo is delivered – at the wrong location inside cells, and headed in the wrong direction.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Understanding a cerium quirk could help advance grid-scale energy storage

When the cerium atom is short three electrons, it is surrounded by water molecules. But when it gives up a fourth electron, some water molecules shift out of the way to let in sulfates. This dance costs energy, but understanding that energy loss paves the way for more efficient cerium batteries.
Image Credit: Dylan Herrera, Goldsmith Lab, University of Michigan

It turns out cerium flow batteries lose voltage when electrolyte molecules siphon off energy to form different complexes around the metal

An explanation for why flow batteries using the metal cerium in a sulfuric acid electrolyte fall short on voltage, discovered through a study led by the University of Michigan, could pave the way for better battery chemistry.

Flow batteries are one of the methods under consideration for storing intermittent sources of renewable electricity, such as solar and wind power. They can bank large quantities of energy by keeping the chemical potential in liquid form, with two electrolytes that flow through porous electrodes to charge and discharge. The metal cerium could store energy at a relatively high voltage, meaning more energy per metal ion, and at low cost.

One of the challenges with cerium is figuring out how to make electric charges transfer to and from the electrode efficiently. On its way through the positive electrode, cerium either picks up or drops off an electron, depending on whether the battery is charging or discharging.

However, the cerium in a sulfuric acid electrolyte doesn’t pick up and drop off the electron as quickly as expected, meaning energy is wasted. It turned out that the water molecules and sulfate molecules were doing a complicated dance around the cerium, and that’s how the energy was lost.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Injections for diabetes, cancer could become unnecessary

Young woman injecting insulin
Photo Credit: Pavel Danilyuk

Researchers at UC Riverside are paving the way for diabetes and cancer patients to forget needles and injections, and instead take pills to manage their conditions.

Some drugs for these diseases dissolve in water, so transporting them through the intestines, which receive what we drink and eat, is not feasible. As a result, these drugs cannot be administered by mouth. However, UCR scientists have created a chemical “tag” that can be added to these drugs, allowing them to enter blood circulation via the intestines.

The details of how they found the tag, and demonstrations of its effectiveness, are described in a new Journal of the American Chemical Society paper.

The tag is composed of a small peptide, which is like a protein fragment. “Because they are relatively small molecules, you can chemically attach them to drugs, or other molecules of interest, and use them to deliver those drugs orally,” said Min Xue, UCR chemistry professor who led the research.

Xue’s laboratory was testing something unrelated when the researchers observed these peptides making their way into cells.

Growing pure nanotubes is a stretch, but possible

There are dozens of varieties of nanotubes, each with a characteristic diameter and structural twist, or chiral angle. Carbon nanotubes are grown on catalytic particles using batch production methods that produce the entire gamut of chiral varieties, but Rice University scientists have come up with a new strategy for making batches with a single, desired chirality. Their theory shows chiral varieties can be selected for production when catalytic particles are drawn away at specific speeds by localized feedstock supply. The illustration depicts this and an analogous process 19th-century scientists used to describe the evolution of giraffes’ long necks due to the gradual selection of abilities to reach progressively higher for food.
Credit: Illustrations by Ksenia Bets/Rice University

Like a giraffe stretching for leaves on a tall tree, making carbon nanotubes reach for food as they grow may lead to a long-sought breakthrough.

Materials theorists Boris Yakobson and Ksenia Bets at Rice University’s George R. Brown School of Engineering show how putting constraints on growing nanotubes could facilitate a “holy grail” of growing batches with a single desired chirality.

Their paper in Science Advances describes a strategy by which constraining the carbon feedstock in a furnace would help control the “kite” growth of nanotubes. In this method, the nanotube begins to form at the metal catalyst on a substrate, but lifts the catalyst as it grows, resembling a kite on a string.

Carbon nanotube walls are basically graphene, its hexagonal lattice of atoms rolled into a tube. Chirality refers to how the hexagons are angled within the lattice, between 0 and 30 degrees. That determines whether the nanotubes are metallic or semiconductors. The ability to grow long nanotubes in a single chirality could, for instance, enable the manufacture of highly conductive nanotube fibers or semiconductor channels of transistors.

Gadolinium Improved Conductivity of Hydrogen Energy Material Twenty-fold

Schematic and photograph of layered perovskites with gadolinium.
Illustration Credit: et al. journal Materials

Employees of the Institute of High Temperature Electrochemistry of the Urals Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Hydrogen Energy of Ural Federal University have created a new electrolyte material for hydrogen power. It is based on layered perovskites modified with rare-earth gadolinium, Indicator reports. Layered perovskites have good conductivity, and they can also be used to create systems that will convert the energy of chemical reactions into electricity. The development of the Ural scientists will make it possible to expand green energy technologies and thereby reduce carbon emissions. The research was supported by the Russian Science Foundation. The results of the work were published in the journal Materials.

Classical ABO3 perovskite (where A and B are two different elements and O is oxygen) is a network of octahedrons connected with each other by all vertices, and each oxygen atom is included in this network. In layered perovskites AA'BO4 octahedrons are connected in layers separated from each other by layers with a cubic structure of rock salt. It is more "flexible" than the classical perovskite, which may open up additional possibilities for its improvement.

The authors decided to modify the layered perovskites BaLaInO4 (Ba - barium, La - lanthanum, In - indium, O - oxygen) by adding atoms of the rare-earth gadolinium, which can also increase the conductivity of materials. In this case, this effect is due to the fact that the system originally had rare-earth ions - lanthanum - and the addition of their "relative" gadolinium led to more repulsion of octahedrons in the crystal lattice. As a result, the space for the transport of charged particles expanded.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Previously unseen processes reveal path to better rechargeable battery performance

Materials science and engineering postdoctoral researcher Wenxiang Chen is the first author of a new study that applies imaging techniques common in ceramics and metallurgy to rechargeable ion battery research. 
Photo by Fred Zwicky

To design better rechargeable ion batteries, engineers and chemists from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign collaborated to combine a powerful new electron microscopy technique and data mining to visually pinpoint areas of chemical and physical alteration within ion batteries.

A study led by materials science and engineering professors Qian Chen and Jian-Min Zuo is the first to map out altered domains inside rechargeable ion batteries at the nanoscale – a 10-fold or more increase in resolution over current X-ray and optical methods.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Materials.

The team said previous efforts to understand the working and failure mechanisms of battery materials have primarily focused on the chemical effect of recharging cycles, namely the changes in the chemical composition of the battery electrodes.

A new electron microscopy technique, called four-dimensional scanning transmission electron microscopy, allows the team to use a highly focused probe to collect images of the inner workings of batteries.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

Plant Hormones to Help Prevent Striga Invasion

 A field of the crop sorghum infected with Striga.
Photo Credit: 2022 KAUST; Muhammad Jamil; Jian You Wang.

As part of a multipronged approach to prevent infestations by the parasitic plant Striga hermonthica, researchers are unravelling the role of plant hormones, known as strigolactones (SLs).

Cereal crops release SLs that regulate plant architecture and play a role in other processes related to plant development and stress response. The SLs released by plant roots attract mycorrhizal fungi, which provide plant nutrients. But strigolactones also induce germination and invasion by the parasitic plant Striga, with severe impacts on agricultural production, particularly on cereal yields in Africa.

In an important discovery, the team has recently shown that canonical SLs do not affect plant architecture in rice.

The researchers employed CRISPR/Cas9 technology to generate rice lines without canonical SLs and compared them to wild-type plants. The shoot and root phenotypes did not differ significantly between the mutants and the wild type, indicating that canonical SLs are not major regulators of rice architecture.

“Knowing which SLs regulate plant architecture and other functions, such as establishing symbiosis with beneficial mycorrhizal fungi or enabling invasion by root parasitic plants, will allow us to optimize and engineer one trait without affecting others,” explains Jian You Wang, a postdoc in Al-Babili’s lab.

The research showed that canonical SLs do contribute to symbiosis with mycorrhizal fungi and play a major role in stimulating seed germination in root parasitic weeds.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

A new method for studying ribosome function

Illustration showing the principle of native chemical ligation approach developed by Syroegin, et al. Addition of the cysteine amino acid (red) to tRNA (blue, top left) allows for the tRNA to fuse to a peptide (yellow, lower left). The resulting ribosome structure (middle) and the captured electron density maps for the peptidyl-tRNA inside the ribosome (right) were obtained by X-ray crystallography in the UIC experiments.
Image Credit: Syroegin, et al.

Inside tiny cellular machines called ribosomes, chains of genetic material called messenger RNAs (mRNAs) are matched with the corresponding transfer RNAs (tRNAs) to create sequences of amino acids that exit the ribosome as proteins. Unfinished proteins are called nascent chainsm and they are left attached to the ribosome.

Scientists know that some of these nascent chains can regulate the activity of the ribosome and that the nascent chains can sometimes interfere with antibiotics — many of which work by targeting bacterial ribosome activity. Scientists do not know why this happens, mainly because it is hard to visualize what the ribosome-peptide-drug interactions look like while the unfinished proteins are still tethered to the ribosome.

Now, scientists at the University of Illinois Chicago are the first to report a method for stable attachment of peptides to tRNAs, which has allowed them to gain new fundamental insights into ribosome function by determining the atomic-level structures of ribosomes and the shapes that these peptides take inside the ribosome.

Durable, Inexpensive Catalyst Reduces Carbon Footprint of Ammonia Production


To reduce the energy requirements of the Haber-Bosch process, which converts nitrogen and hydrogen to ammonia, researchers from Tokyo Tech have developed a metal nitride catalyst containing an active metal (Ni) on a lanthanum nitride support that is stable in presence of moisture. Since the catalyst doesn't contain ruthenium, it presents an inexpensive option for reducing the carbon footprint of ammonia production.

The Haber-Bosch process, which is commonly used to synthesize ammonia (NH3)–the foundation for synthetic nitrogen fertilizers–by combining hydrogen (H2) and nitrogen (N2) over catalysts at high pressures and temperatures, is one of the most important scientific discoveries that has helped improve crop yields and increase food production globally.

However, the process requires high fossil fuel energy inputs due to its requirements of high temperatures and pressure. Hydrogen used for this process is produced from natural gas (mainly methane). This hydrogen-producing process is energy-consuming and accompanies huge emissions of carbon dioxide. To overcome these issues, various catalysts have been developed to allow the reaction to proceed under milder conditions using hydrogen produced by water electrolysis via renewable energy. Among them are nitride-based catalysts that contain active metal nanoparticles like nickel and cobalt (Ni, Co) loaded on lanthanum nitride (LaN) supports. In these catalysts, both the support and the active metal are involved in the production of NH3. The active metal splits the H2 while the LaN support contains nitrogen vacancies and nitrogen atoms in its crystal structure that absorb and activate nitrogen (N2). While these catalysts are inexpensive (since they avoid using ruthenium, which is costly), their catalytic performance is degraded in the presence of moisture, with the LaN support transforming into lanthanum hydroxide (La(OH)3).

Monday, October 31, 2022

New catalyst can turn smelly hydrogen sulfide into a cash cow

An illustration of the light-powered, one-step remediation process for hydrogen sulfide gas made possible by a gold photocatalyst created at Rice University.
Image Credit: Halas Group/Rice University

Hydrogen sulfide gas has the unmistakable aroma of rotten eggs. It often emanates from sewers, stockyards and landfills, but it is particularly problematic for refineries, petrochemical plants and other industries, which make thousands of tons of the noxious gas each year as a byproduct of processes that remove sulfur from petroleum, natural gas, coal and other products.

In a published study in the American Chemical Society’s high-impact journal ACS Energy Letters, Rice engineer, physicist and chemist Naomi Halas and collaborators describe a method that uses gold nanoparticles to convert hydrogen sulfide into high-demand hydrogen gas and sulfur in a single step. Better yet, the one-step process gets all its energy from light. Study co-authors include Rice’s Peter Nordlander, Princeton University’s Emily Carter and Syzygy Plasmonics’ Hossein Robatjazi.

“Hydrogen sulfide emissions can result in hefty fines for industry, but remediation is also very expensive,” said Halas, a nanophotonics pioneer whose lab has spent years developing commercially viable light-activated nanocatalysts. “The phrase ‘game-changer’ is overused, but in this case, it applies. Implementing plasmonic photocatalysis should be far less expensive than traditional remediation, and it has the added potential of transforming a costly burden into an increasingly valuable commodity.”

Reprogramming of immune cells shown to fight off melanoma

Illustration showing how miniature artificial protocells loaded with anti-microRNA-223 cargo can reprogram cancer-associated macrophages in larval and adult zebrafish leading them to be more pro-inflammatory and thus able to drive melanoma shrinkage
Image Credit: Paco Lopez Cuevas

A new way of reprogramming our immune cells to shrink or kill off cancer cells has been shown to work in the otherwise hard to treat and devastating skin cancer, melanoma. The University of Bristol-led discovery, published in Advanced Science today [31 October], demonstrates a new way to clear early stage pre-cancerous and even late-stage tumor cells.

Using miniature artificial capsules called protocells designed to deploy reprogramming cargoes that are taken up by inflammatory cells (white blood cells), the scientists show they were able to transform these cells into a state that makes them more effective at slowing down the growth and killing of melanoma cells. They showed that this was possible for both animal and human immune cells.

The study is the first to test the capacity of a protocell to deliver cargoes for reprogramming immune cells and offers a promising novel target for the development of cancer immunotherapies.

Paul Martin, Professor of Cell Biology in the School of Biochemistry at the University of Bristol and one of the study's lead authors explained what happens when our immune system comes into contact with cancer cells: "Our immune cells have a surveillance capacity which enables them to detect pre-cancerous cells arising at any tissue site in the body. However, when immune cells encounter cancer cells, they are often subverted by the cancer cells and instead tend to nourish them and encourage cancer progression. We wanted to test whether it might be possible to reprogram our immune system to kill these cells rather than nurture them."

New Material for Perovskite Solar Cells Proposed in Russia

Scientists have proposed a new type of material for transporting electrons in perovskite solar cells.
 Photo Credit: Vladimir Petrov

Experts from the Ural Federal University and the Institute of Organic Synthesis of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, together with other Russian scientists, have proposed a new type of material for one of the solar cell cells. The discovered compounds will significantly reduce the cost of solar cell production. An article with the results of the study was published in the New Journal of Chemistry.

Perovskite solar cells (PSCs) are a promising alternative to the familiar silicon cells, providing the same amount of energy with 180 times less material thickness. Their production technology is much simpler and cheaper than that of silicon cells. The problem with PSCs is their lack of stability. One of the most effective solutions today, as explained by the experts, is the selection of new materials that ensure the transport of the charge carriers after it is obtained in the perovskite layer itself.

The scientific team of the Ural Federal University and the Institute of Organic Synthesis of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences proposed a new type of material for transporting electrons in the PSCs, which has a number of advantages. According to the authors, with the new material they managed to achieve solar energy conversion efficiency of 12%, which is comparable with the average indicators of market analogues.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

NUS researchers devise revolutionary technique to generate hydrogen more efficiently from water

An NUS team led by Assoc Prof Xue Jun Min (center) has found that light can trigger a new mechanism in a catalytic material used extensively in water electrolysis (held up by Mr. Zhong Haoyin), where water is broken down into hydrogen and oxygen. The result is a more energy-efficient method of obtaining hydrogen. Dr Vincent Lee Wee Siang (right) is a member of the research team.
 Credit: National University of Singapore

The team’s discovery that light can trigger a brand new electro-catalytic mechanism of water electrolysis could improve affordability of hydrogen as source of clean energy

A team of researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have made a serendipitous scientific discovery that could potentially revolutionize the way water is broken down to release hydrogen gas - an element crucial to many industrial processes.

The team, led by Associate Professor Xue Jun Min, Dr Wang Xiaopeng and Dr Vincent Lee Wee Siang from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering under the NUS College of Design and Engineering (NUS CDE), found that light can trigger a new mechanism in a catalytic material used extensively in water electrolysis, where water is broken down into hydrogen and oxygen. The result is a more energy-efficient method of obtaining hydrogen.

This breakthrough was achieved in collaboration with Dr Xi Shibo from the Institute of Sustainability for Chemicals, Energy and Environment under the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (ASTAR); Dr Yu Zhigen from the Institute of High-Performance Computing under ASTAR; and Dr Wang Hao from the Department of Mechanical Engineering under the NUS CDE.

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