Research Highlight

Spongy catalyst helps generate hydrogen fuel

doi:10.1038/nindia.2016.119 Published online 13 September 2016

Researchers have synthesized a spongy metallic catalyst that can split water into oxygen and hydrogen1, potentially useful in making lightweight, portable cells for generating hydrogen fuel.

Splitting water could reduce excessive reliance on fossil fuels by generating  electric energy and hydrogen fuel. Past techiques require expensive metal-based catalysts.

In search of a cost-effective approach the researchers developed a one-step process to make a metallic sponge using salts of cobalt and nickel and nitrogen-doped graphene.

Sophisticated imaging techniques revealed that the spongy catalyst contains an interconnected structure comprising pores of varying sizes ranging from micro to nano. The electrolysis cell made using the catalyst steadily functioned for more than 10 hours at a specific current density.

The spongy catalyst can be directly incorporated into other electrodes without an external binder that usually increases the resistance of an electrolysis cell. In addition, use of cheap metals such as cobalt and nickel reduces the cost of an electrolysis cell.

Since the metallic sponge is almost weightless, it can dramatically reduce the weight of a portable water-splitting cell,” says lead researcher, Subbiah Alwarappan.  

The authors of this work are from: CSIR-Central Electrochemical Research Institute (CSIR-CECRI), Karaikudi, TIFR-Centre for Interdisciplinary Sciences (TCIS), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Hyderabad and Academy of Scientific & Innovative Research, Chennai, India and Department of Materials Science and Engineering Inha University, Incheon, Korea.


1. Vineesh, T. V. et al. Controllably alloyed, low density, free-standing Ni-Co and Ni-graphene sponges for electrocatalytic water splitting. Sci. Rep.(2016) doi:10.1038/srep31202