Producing hydrogen from splitting water without splitting hairs (Vol. 49 No.5-6)

Adsorption of water molecules on the surface of copper nanoparticles could produce hydrogen faster and more efficiently

New model explains interactions between small copper clusters used as low-cost catalysts in the production of hydrogen by breaking down water molecules

Copper nanoparticles dispersed in water or in the form of coatings have a range of promising applications, including lubrication, ink jet printing, as luminescent probes, exploiting their antimicrobial and antifungal activity, and in fuel cells. Another promising application is using copper as a catalyst to split water molecules and form molecular hydrogen in gaseous form. At the heart of the reaction, copper-water complexes are synthesised in ultra-cold helium nanodroplets as part of the hydrogen production process, according to a recent paper published recently. For its authors, splitting water like this is a good way of avoiding splitting hairs. In their study, they synthesised neutral copper-water complexes by successively doping helium nanodroplets with copper atoms and water molecules. These droplets are then ionised by electrons. The authors show that the composition of the most prominent ions depends on the partial copper and water pressures in the cell where the reaction occurs. They observe ions containing several copper atoms and several dozen water molecules.

S. Raggl, N. Gitzl, P. Martini, P. Scheier, and O. Echt , Helium nanodroplets doped with copper and water, Eur. Phys. Jour. D 72, 130 (2018)