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Producing pure hydrogen at low cost? WUT researchers say – yes!

Photo of Marta Mazurkiewicz-Pawlicka, PhD, and Zuzanna Bojarska, MSc.

From the right: Marta Mazurkiewicz-Pawlicka, PhD, and Zuzanna Bojarska, MSc.

Researchers from the Faculty of Chemical and Process Engineering of WUT have developed a technology that will enable universal and less expensive production of hydrogen. They used molybdenum disulphide produced in impact reactors and carbon nanomaterials.

Hydrogen is supposed to be the fuel of the 21st century, one of the key ones in the energy transformation of the European Union. In 2050, green hydrogen, i.e. from renewable sources, is expected to account for 24% of the EU's energy demand. Researchers are looking for the right method to produce it.

Promising hybrid

– The aim of our project was to produce pure hydrogen as it is produced by the decomposition of water. At the same time, we wanted to achieve it at a low cost – says Marta Mazurkiewicz-Pawlicka, PhD.

As a result of the process of water electrolysis, hydrogen and oxygen are produced. Platinum is widely used as a catalyst, which is very expensive and increasingly less available. Researchers are looking for a material to replace it. In the Product Engineering research team at the Faculty of Chemical and Process Engineering of WUT, a combination of molybdenum disulphide and carbon nanomaterials was proposed. They show promising electro- and photoelectrocatalytic properties for water separation.

New technology

– The subject of hydrogen evolution and the catalysts based on molybdenum disulphide used for this purpose is well known. There are many techniques for obtaining such catalysts, but they cannot be used on a larger scale, because they are too expensive – explains Zuzanna Bojarska, MSc.

– Therefore, ultimately, our materials will be produced in impact reactors, which is a novelty – emphasizes Zuzanna Bojarska, MSc. – Impact reactors allow the production of materials with repeatable properties in a continuous and controlled manner. Due to their relatively simple design, they are easily scalable and can be successfully used in industry – she adds.

The reactors resemble the letter T. Two streams collide in them, giving good mixing conditions, from where the product is discharged through the third channel. Reagents are injected into the reactor in the form of an aqueous solution or suspension with carbon nanomaterials, and as a result of the reaction molybdenum disulphide precipitates on the carbon surface.

Three Musketeers

The synthesis of molybdenum disulphide in the impact reactor was developed by Prof. Łukasz Makowski and his team. Zuzanna Bojarska, MSc., continues to work on the material as part of her doctorate. Marta Mazurkiewcz-Pawlicka, PhD, deals with carbon nanomaterials.

– We combine all our experience and competences. I am glad that we make up an interdisciplinary team and we are able to develop technology for the production of new materials and find interesting applications for them – Marta Mazurkiewicz-Pawlicka, PhD.

– We are developing new materials in order to use clean energy in the future – emphasizes Zuzanna Bojarska, MSc. Fuel cells using the hydrogen obtained in this way could be a source of power for cars or homes.

Photo of Marta Mazurkiewicz-Pawlicka, PhD, and Zuzanna Bojarska, MSc., at the fuel cell

From the right: Marta Mazurkiewicz-Pawlicka, PhD, and Zuzanna Bojarska, MSc., at the fuel cell

Polish-Taiwanese cooperation

To further reduce the cost of hydrogen production, the researchers are carrying out another project with researchers from Tatung University in Taipei. – We want to increase the activity of our hybrid in the field of solar radiation by adding semiconductor nanoparticles with photocatalytic properties – says Marta Mazurkiewicz-Pawlicka, PhD. – The use of such materials will allow to reduce technological costs due to the use of solar energy – she adds.  

The Project entitled "Modern molybdenum disulfide-based hybrid materials with increased photocatalytic properties for hydrogen secretion reaction", which will continue for at least two more years, is financed as part of the Polish-Taiwanese competition organized by the National Centre for Research and Development.

The project "Modern hybrid catalysts based on carbon nanomaterials and molybdenum disulfide for hydrogen secretion reaction" was completed in 2020. It was financed under the "Excellence Initiative - Research University" programme run at WUT. It was among the winners of the competition for research grants "Material Technologies - 1" of the POB Research Centre - Materials Technologies.