Supported MoTe2: proving the viability of a 2D material to be employed in the PEM flow cell for the hydrogen production

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Chemistry


Climate change and energy insecurity are two great challenges facing humankind. Suppose we can mitigate it by benefiting from the greater powers of nature which are in abundance such as wind and sun. We can make it work but adapting renewable electricity will bring intermittency challenge. What do we do when the sun does not shine, and the wind does not blow? We can solve it by generating green hydrogen by water electrolysis to manage the peaks and troughs in electricity production. We can make it work by stock-piling hydrogen reserves and re-utilising them when needed for heavy transport, domestic or industrial heating and chemical feedstock. Substantial progress in this direction would prevent the global warming and divert us from the reliance on fossil fuels.
Electrolysers are devices for water splitting and they are probably the most advanced solution for creating green hydrogen when coupled with renewable energy sources. Although there has been a significant progress in the design of industrial electrolysers; effective compact systems ready for dynamic response and capable of being deployed in tandem with renewable energy sources such as solar are still limited. The state-of-the-art technologies are still facing serious drawbacks by relying on expensive noble metal catalysts but what if we created few nanometers thick layers with abundance of active sites to catalyse the hydrogen evolution reaction at the surface? We can do it by using 2D materials that consist of earth-abundant elements and intrinsically prone to forming atomically-flat thin layers.
Delivered by a team of chemists and engineers the project will explore efficient and practical ways towards hydrogen production on MoTe2 which is a 2D material. The unique feature of MoTe2 is the abundance of catalytic sites at the surface. When supported on a high surface area substrate and laminated to proton exchange membrane it will act as cathode in the membrane electrode assembly within a flow cell that will generate hydrogen by water splitting. As such, the proposed research aims to create the first prototype of an electrolyser that works based on a 2D material. Success in this work would demonstrate an innovative solution by accessing MoTe2 on high surface area substrates to produce a highly stable and robust form of 2D catalyst for application in corrosive environments. This will allow further exploration of its use in delivering green hydrogen at scale.