The research team, led by Raymond Schaak, indicated an important chemical reaction that generates hydrogen from water is effectively catalyzed the nickel and phosphorus nanoparticle, two inexpensive and abundant elements, the university said Thursday in a release.
Schaak said the purpose of the nickel phosphide nanoparticle is to help produce hydrogen from water, a process that is important for many energy-production technologies, including fuel and solar cells.
The results are to be published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
"Water is an ideal fuel because it is cheap and abundant but we need to be able to extract hydrogen from it," Schaak said.
While hydrogen has a high energy density and is a great energy vessel, it requires energy to produce, Schaak said. To make its production practical, scientists have searching for a way to trigger the necessary chemical reactions with an inexpensive catalyst.
"There were some predictions that nickel phosphide might be a good candidate, and we had already been working with nickel phosphide nanoparticles for several years," Schaak said.
Nanoparticle technology has begun opening doors to less expensive and cleaner energy that is efficient and useful, Schaak said.
"The goal now is to further improve the performance of these nanoparticles and to understand what makes them function the way they do," he said. "Also, our team members believe that our success with nickel phosphide can pave the way toward the discovery of other new catalysts that also are comprised of Earth-abundant materials."