Observed in action the individual atoms involved in the production process of ‘green’ hydrogen, that is, the one derived from water and therefore with a low environmental impact. The result, which will allow the design of new generation catalytic materials that can make production more efficient and economical, is published in the journal Nature Catalysis by the Surface Science and Catalysis Group (Sscg) of the Department of Chemical Sciences of the University. of Padua directed by Gaetano Granozzi, in collaboration with the theoretical group of the University of Milano-Bicocca led by Cristiana Di Valentin.
Thanks to an extremely sophisticated electrochemical scanning tunnel microscopy (Ec-Stm) instrumentation developed in Padua, the researchers saw the individual atoms at work in the hydrogen production process. The method was applied to innovative catalytic systems based on two-dimensional materials based on graphene and non-noble metals (an alternative to the standard materials currently used for the electrochemical decomposition of water requiring the use of high-cost and low-cost noble metals. availability). The quality of the data obtained is unprecedented and has been interpreted through state-of-the-art simulation methods developed at the University of Milano-Bicocca.
The study made it possible to “identify with atomic precision the presence of catalytic sites and directly evaluate their ability to produce hydrogen in situ. This truly unique combination of spatial resolution and quantification of electrocatalytic activity – says study coordinator Stefano Agnoli of the University of Padua – allows to establish in an extremely accurate way the relationships that link the structure of matter to chemical reactivity and therefore provides the information necessary to build highly efficient catalysts atom after atom ».
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