Development of a hierarchical nanocoating technology for enhanced electrode efficiency of commercial alkaline electrolysers

Oxford nanoSystems
University College London

Augusto is developing a hierarchical nanocoating to enhance the efficiency of alkaline water electrolysers. The process of alkaline water electrolysis is a key in the separation of useful gaseous products, like hydrogen and oxygen. By developing an enhanced nanocoating for the electrodes involved in this process, it is possible to maximise bubble nucleation and therefore facilitate a faster reaction time. Bubble nucleation is the release of a gas from a liquid via small pockets of air - the rate of this can be increased in alkaline water electrolysis if there are suitable surfaces for the reactions to take place. The hierarchical nature of the nanocoating being developed means that through large pores the rapid mass transport of solution is accelerated, but then smaller pores provide a larger surface area of catalytically active sites for bubble nucleation. Furthermore, the cone shaping of this structure helps in the ejection of these bubbles to prevent their build-up which is important to maintain high efficiency in this process. The effect of bubble build-up on efficiency is even more severe at industrial level currents, making this research even more important for industrial hydrogen separation.

The benefits of such a technology would be seen in new, thriving industries such as hydrogen energy, often hailed as a solution to our needs for energy and a carbon neutral economy. The cost involved, however, of hydrogen technology are currently too high to make this a viable solution to energy demands, but Augusto hopes that with the development of more efficient processes, it could become a reality.

Augusto is a Junior Research Scientist at Oxford Nanosystems. He studied Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Manchester and graduated with a First Class Honours degree.

“I believe the combination of an academic and industry approach to this complex problem will provide the best opportunity to progress electrolyser technology to the point of commercial realisation. I’m as excited to work on the project as I am to work alongside world leading experts in the field.”