HOUSTON, July 26 (Xinhua) -- Splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen to produce clean energy can be simplified with a single catalyst, according to a news release issued by Rice University, Texas.
The news release, published Wednesday, reported that the electrolytic film produced at Rice University and tested at University of Houston is a three-layer structure of nickel, graphene and a compound of iron, manganese and phosphorus.
The foamy nickel gives the film a large surface, the conductive graphene protects the nickel from degrading and the metal phosphide carries out the reaction.
Rice University chemist Kenton Whitmire and University of Houston electrical and computer engineer Jiming Bao and their labs developed the film to overcome barriers that usually make a catalyst good for producing either oxygen or hydrogen, but not both simultaneously.
The discovery builds upon the researchers' creation of a simple oxygen-evolution catalyst revealed earlier this year. In that work, the team grew a catalyst directly on a semiconducting nanorod array that turned sunlight into energy for solar water splitting.
The robust material is the subject of a paper in Nano Energy. Zhenhuan Zhao of the University of Houston and the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, China's Chengdu, is co-lead author of the paper.