Researchers at the University of Central Florida have designed for the first time a nanoscale material that can efficiently split seawater into oxygen and hydrogen. Hydrogen fuel derived from the sea could be an abundant and sustainable alternative to fossil fuels, but the potential fuel source has been limited by technical challenges, including how to practically the produce the hydrogen.

The UCF researchers developed a stable, and long-lasting nanoscale material to catalyze the electrolysis reaction, shown here. Image Credit: University of Central Florida. Click image for the largest view.

The process of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen is known as electrolysis and effectively doing it has been a challenge until now. The new UCF team developed, stable, and long-lasting nanoscale material to catalyze the reaction is explained in a paper published the journal Advanced Materials.

Yang Yang, an associate professor in UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center and study co-author said, “This development will open a new window for efficiently producing clean hydrogen fuel from seawater.” Yang noted the hydrogen used in fuel cell technology would be converted into electricity that generates water as product and makes an overall sustainable energy cycle.

The researchers developed a thin-film material with nanostructures on the surface made of nickel selenide with added, or “doped,” iron and phosphor. This combination offers the high performance and stability that are needed for industrial-scale electrolysis but that has been difficult to achieve because of issues, such as competing reactions, within the system that threaten efficiency.

Yang said the new material balances the competing reactions in a way that is low-cost and high-performance.

Using their design, the researchers achieved high efficiency and long-term stability for more than 200 hours.

Yang noted, “The seawater electrolysis performance achieved by the dual-doped film far surpasses those of the most recently reported, state-of-the-art electrolysis catalysts and meets the demanding requirements needed for practical application in the industries.”

The press release said the team will work to continue to improve the electrical efficiency of the materials they’ve developed. They are also looking for opportunities and funding to accelerate and help commercialize the work.


That’s a material, with something of a life cycle, that might see some use after development. With wind power coming placed offshore there very well could be a future for this technology. One could simply dump the O2 right back into the water for marine life. Other than gathering the hydrogen, not a lot of difficulties that are obvious, other than marine life moving in and clogging up the works.


1 Comment so far

  1. Matt Musson on September 23, 2021 9:13 AM

    Some of the dirtiest engines around are marine diesel engines. (mainly because of the poor quality oil they burn) Converting them to burning hydrogen would be a huge win. And, the waste product would be fresh water which ships always need.

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