The new catalyst lasted over two months at a current density of 200 milliamperes per square centimeter

Thursday, March 10th, 2022

A new, rare metal-free method for producing hydrogen from water has been discovered by a team of researchers at the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science (CSRS) in Japan:

Nakamura explained that currently, the most active catalysts for water electrolysis are rare metals like platinum and iridium, which creates a dilemma because they are expensive and considered “endangered species” among metals.

According to the scientist, switching the whole planet to hydrogen fuel right now would require about 800 years’ worth of iridium production, an amount which might not even exist. On the other hand, abundant metals such as iron and nickel are not active enough and tend to dissolve immediately in the harsh acidic electrolysis environment.


Cobalt oxides can be active for the required reaction but corrode very quickly in the acidic environment. Manganese oxides are more stable but are not nearly active enough.


Eventually, the team overcame these issues by trial and error and discovered an active and stable catalyst by inserting manganese into the spinel lattice of Co3O4, producing the mixed cobalt manganese oxide Co2MnO4.

In their paper, the experts report that activation levels for Co2MnO4 were close to those for state-of-the-art iridium oxides.

Additionally, the new catalyst lasted over two months at a current density of 200 milliamperes per square centimeter, which could make it effective for practical use. Compared with other non-rare metal catalysts, which typically last only days or weeks at much lower current densities, the new electrocatalyst could be a game-changer.


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    Catalysts merely accelerate reactions. They do not change the reaction energetics. The fact remains that it requires more energy to produce the hydrogen than you get back when you burn it. A lot more. Maybe two to three times as much, depending on the system details.

    Nonetheless, durable, efficient, fast catalysts are always needed. However, cobalt magnesium oxide is not a game changer in any way. That’s just the usual scientist hype trying to get another grant. Scientists have the morals of used car salesmen.

  2. Pseudo-Chrysostom says:

    Splitting water molecules is basically trading higher total entropy for lower local entropy; ie, it’s a form of energy storage, not energy generation. Effectively like taking ashes and putting carbon back into them.

  3. Sam J. says:

    I have no idea why these people keep trying to make hydrogen for energy. It’s ridiculously hard to control and store. I see the whole thing as a futile, absurd mental aberration.

    Why not just make Alcohol. It burns clean and stores just fine? There’s also some sort of synthetic alt diesel fuel I can’t remember the name of that has good energy storage and burns clean.

  4. Pseudo-Chrysostom says:

    Dimethyl ether, probably.

    But of course, in any case, the whole point of ‘green energy’ is to be a priestly form of ‘jobs for the boys’; functionality is not only irrelevant, harm to the economy or advanced civilization in general is if anything felt as an added bonus by such sorts.

  5. Sam J. says:

    “Dimethyl ether” Yes I think that’s it. I believe this is where, or the context in which, I heard about this.

    A quote from the link,”…The volumetric energy density of methanol is considerably higher than liquid hydrogen, in part because of the low density of liquid hydrogen of 71 grams/litre. Hence there is actually more hydrogen in a litre of methanol (99 grams/litre) than in a litre of liquid hydrogen, and methanol needs no cryogenic container maintained at a temperature of -253 °C ….”.

    Why work yourself to death making containers for hydrogen when you can just store it in a liquid?

    Bob Sykes says,”…Catalysts merely accelerate reactions. They do not change the reaction energetics…”

    I don’t think that’s entirely true, although I’m not at all sure. Don’t certain catalyst “channel” reactions such that “only” the reaction required is favored? So that you make more of what you want as a reaction and not other molecules that you do not want. This in effect means more of the energy is used for the stuff that you want as opposed to more of stuff you do not want. That in turn means the efficiency is better. Yes it does take the same amount of energy for the reaction, but if the total amount of energy put into a reaction is used mostly for the reaction you want then you are in fact, and effect, getting a huge efficiency boost for “that particular” chemical.

    In the link above it says,”…For example, in the Haber process…particularly strong triple bond in nitrogen is broken, which would be extremely uncommon in the gas phase due to its high activation energy. Thus, the activation energy of the overall reaction is lowered, and the rate of reaction increases….”.

    That sounds an awful lot like an efficiency gain to me, for the desired chemical.

  6. Sam J. says:

    I want to add I’m not against burning coal, or tar sands, or fracking, etc. What I’m against is depending on an energy sources that can be easily cut off. If we had a methanol based economy, we could use nuclear plants and locally, solar, to make fuel. There could be no shut down of energy by foreign actors and of the psychopaths that run the West. If they tried to cut off energy, people could make their own with solar. It’s about control of people’s destiny and energy future or more accurately people having control over their own energy future.

  7. Pseudo-Chrysostom says:

    The gaia worshiper’s hostility to nuclear, the answer to all their ostensible prayers on paper, tells you all you need to know about their real values.

    It is not man or the God of man that they serve, but their daemon idol.

  8. Sam J. says:

    That Dual-Fluid Reactor (DFR) is very cool. I can’t say I understand the need for the lead. I get that it carries away heat faster. I get that higher heat makes for a higher temperature increasing Carnot efficiency but if the old design used salts for the heat transfer it could take a little bigger heat exchanger but I’m not sure it would be that much bigger??? If I remember correctly, the thorium reactors run around 800C. Is the difference that great at 1000C?

    Also since it’s a fast reactor the Russians have one of these that uses lead but I believe it has to be a special lead with certain isotopes removed. I wonder if this is not the same. I bet it would. I also bet that;s where they got the lead idea from.

    What I’m getting at would the complexity add to performance enough to make it worth the complexity? I don’t know the answer to this. I can’t see where having lead is that much of an advantage.

  9. Sam J. says:

    That Dual-Fluid Reactor (DFR) paper also talked about alternate fuels like Hydrazine. Now I always thought Hydrazine was super high toxic but apparently if you mix it with water it is not near so toxic and makes a good fuel. Who would think that? It also leads to other synthetic fuels that can be made. Some I never heard of.

    Here’s a new one that is really interesting.,5-Dimethylfuran

    Made from fructose or from glucose, which can be derived from starch and cellulose. It has close to the energy density of gasoline. There’s an attribute that it has that should make it better than gasoline. It’s the amount of air it needs.

    “…The stoichiometric air/fuel ratio of dimethylfuran is 10.72, compared to ethanol at 8.95 and gasoline at 14.56.[2] This means that burning dimethylfuran requires approximately 33% less air than the same quantity of gasoline, but approximately 20% more air than the same quantity of ethanol…”

    The limiting factor for combustion engines is how much air you can cram into it. If you need much less air, you can react more fuel in a smaller engine for the same power. 33% less air needed is a lot. You could have an alternate fuel that works better than gasoline.

  10. Pseudo-Chrysostom says:

    It may seem counter-intuitive, but lead is actually a very useful coolant for high ‘power-to-weight ratio’ reactors.

    The main thing is as you note, it can be ran much hotter, which means not just higher efficiency, but also greater utility for various industrial processes that use heat (like catalyzing reactions).

    Additionally, lead is both opaque to gamma rays, which reduces additional ‘passive’ shielding requirements, and it is also a good neutron reflector, which improves the neutron economy (further improving efficiency, and also greater flexibility in fuel types).

    Such are some of the reasons why it was, for example, the design of choice for fast alfa-class submarines. (The specific coolant used in that design was a lead-bismuth eutectic, which has a lower melting point, but unlike pure lead, the bismuth can transmute into polonium, which requires occasional treatment for removal. As for where all that polonium goes? Who knows…)

  11. Sam J. says:

    “…opaque to gamma rays, which reduces additional ‘passive’ shielding requirements, and it is also a good neutron reflector, which improves the neutron economy…”

    Ahhh! I see. Thanks.

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