Low Cost and High Performance Transition-Metal-Based Electrocatalysts for Water Splitting

Unmet Need :
Accommodating the unpredictable and intermittent nature of renewable energy requires efficient energy storage and conversion devices. One of the most promising solutions is to convert renewably generated electricity into fuels, such as hydrogen, methane, and ethanol. Electrolysis of water is considered an easy and clean method to obtain hydrogen. Oxygen evolution reaction (OER), however, as one of the two important reactions (hydrogen evolution reaction as the other part) involved in electrolysis, is the bottleneck for practical water splitting applications. The sluggish kinetics and large overpotential of the OER make it imperative to search for high-performance electrocatalysts.

The Technology :
Over the last few decades, RuO2 and IrO2 have been regarded as state-of-the-art catalysts for the OER thanks to their good catalytic activities. However, the scarce resource and prohibitive cost of these precious metals limit their further commercial applications. Lowering the cost of these catalysts involves engineering the structures of the noble metals and alloying them with other less pricey metals. Despite great progress being made along these lines, the cost reduction and performance are still far from satisfactory for large-scale production.  WSU researchers' approach to this problem differs from the mainstream catalyst designs. Our innovative catalyst is made with low cost and naturally abundant elements, which also show far superior catalytic activity and stability during long-term operation.

•    WSU materials are low cost and naturally abundant compared to the expensive and scarce noble metal catalysts, which suffer from fast activity decay during catalytic reactions.
•    Our nano-engineered catalysts have a unique 3D structure and crystallographical features, which enable exceptionally high catalytic activity and durability unmatched by the commercial counterparts and the catalysts using similar elements.
•    Our transition-metal-based catalysts are 40% more energy-efficient and 2400% more durable compared to the state-of-the-art precious metal catalyst.

This technology is optimally suited for electrolyzer manufacturers, fuel cell vehicle companies, and water electrolysis companies to incorporate our catalysts into their manufacturing eco-systems. Despite the fast-paced integration of renewable energy in recent years, their potential has not been fully utilized due to the sluggish development of cost-effective energy conversion and storage technologies. Our innovative technology has the potential to change this situation. Using earth-abundant materials and nanoengineering, our catalyst can directly split water into hydrogen fuel and oxygen at a substantially lower cost than the commercial counterparts.

Intellectual Property:
Provisional Patent Application Filed 

Learn More

Rabindra Nanda
Technology Licensing Associate Senior
Washington State University
(509) 335-8608
Reference No: 1877


Yuehe Lin
Chengzhou Zhu
Shaofang Fu
Dan Du

Key Words

amorphous catalyst
NiFe alloys
oxygen evolution reaction
porous nanostructures
Water Splitting