Hydrogen could be a wonderful fuel for the world, with how its only waste products are heat and water. It is also very common, but despite that it is hard to collect because of how expensive the catalysts are for harvesting it. Researchers at North Carolina State University however have discovered a new catalyst that would be significantly cheaper.
Ideally one would collect hydrogen from water using electrolysis, but to achieve the highest efficiency a catalyst must be used. Platinum is often that catalyst, but it is a very expensive metal, which is why researchers have been searching for replacements. A potential replacement catalyst is molybdenum sulfide (MoS2), but previous work with it has not panned out, until now. The general thinking on catalysts is that the reactions occur along the edges, so the larger the edge, the better it will perform. The North Carolina researchers however tested a thin film of MoS2 just an atom thick, and found the opposite to be true.
While the chemical reaction may still occur along the edges, an atomically thin film of MoS2 conducts electricity better, enhancing its reactiveness greatly. Now the researchers are working to incorporate this finding into a solar-powered water-splitting device.
Source: North Carolina State University