Mining waste could find use to be part of a potential cheaper catalyst in hydrogen fuel production, say researchers. The involves inducing water splitting reactions in mining waste such as rare platinum, iridium, and ruthenium or inexpensive but less active metals such as iron, nickel, and cobalt.
The study undertaken by researchers at the University of Queensland led to creating a new catalyst that uses only a small amount of the reactive metals. The reactive metals were further combined with feldspars, aluminosilicate rock minerals obtained in mining waste that are disposed by some companies paying hefty sums.
Meanwhile, to initiate water splitting reaction, the researchers used heated-activated feldspars nanocoated with only 1-2 percent of cheaper reactive metals.
Chemically, water splitting comprises two reactions: One with hydrogen atom and another with oxygen atom that causes water molecules to separate.
The new nanocoated material served as a catalyst for the oxygen evolution reaction to control the overall efficiency of the entire water splitting process.
Cobalt-coated feldspar emerged to be the most efficient material and optimizing of the new catalysts served to outperform raw metals or even be in line with the superior efficiency of platinum metals.
Furthermore, prospect of lowering the cost of lithium-ion batteries and other sustainable energy solutions that depend on electrochemical conversions could also be the function of the catalyst.
The finding pins hope to add to the renewable value chain in Australia by repurposing mining waste and integrating new technologies to traditional industrial operations.
The technology could potentially be used from companies such as Tesla for energy production, renewable fuel, and advanced energy storage solutions such as new battery technologies.