Improving Wastewater Conversion To Clean Energy

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Researchers, with their new high performance catalysts, improve the efficiency of using urea loaded wastewater to generate clean energy.

Researchers from the University of Adelaide have developed a new kind of catalyst that more efficiently generates clean energy from waste water that contains urea. Urea is available abundantly in waste water and can be used to power fuel cells as an alternative to conventional technology which uses clean water in an electrolyser, a device which splits water into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable electrical energy. Hydrogen obtained is a clean fuel that, when consumed in a fuel cell, produces only water.

“Our new catalyst made from nickel ferrocyanide requires less energy input and could also reduce the urea content of waste water,” said Associate Professor Zheng.

“We have shown for the first time that we can make the process in the electrolysis work more efficiently so it can reduce the energy input and produce more hydrogen than those that use existing catalysts,” he added. “The efficiency of modern energy conversion technologies that use urea is determined by the electrochemical urea oxidation reaction (UOR). The design and synthesis of new catalysts plays a key role for the development of the technologies.”

“We sought to improve on existing UOR catalysts which tend to perform poorly,” the University of Adelaide’s Professor Shizhang Qiao, Director, Centre for Materials in Energy and Catalysis is a joint-corresponding author of the study, said. “Only a few of this existing technology produces sustained energy output,” he said.

“Electrocatalytic techniques can convert urea-rich wastewater, which has become a big threat to human health, to hydrogen for clean energy generation as well as reducing its harmful effects on the environment.”

The work is described in the journal Nature Energy.


 

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