Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists Discover New Way To Make Water

Date:
November 1, 2007
Source:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Summary:
Scientists have discovered a new way to make water. Not only can they make water from unlikely starting materials, such as alcohols, their work could also lead to better catalysts and less expensive fuel cells.

Chemistry professor Thomas Rauchfuss, left, and graduate student Zachariah Heiden have devised a new way to make water.
Credit: Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

In a familiar high-school chemistry demonstration, an instructor first uses electricity to split liquid water into its constituent gases, hydrogen and oxygen. Then, by combining the two gases and igniting them with a spark, the instructor changes the gases back into water with a loud pop.

Scientists at the University of Illinois have discovered a new way to make water, and without the pop. Not only can they make water from unlikely starting materials, such as alcohols, their work could also lead to better catalysts and less expensive fuel cells.

"We found that unconventional metal hydrides can be used for a chemical process called oxygen reduction, which is an essential part of the process of making water," said Zachariah Heiden, a doctoral student and lead author of a paper accepted for publication in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, and posted on its Web site.

A water molecule (formally known as dihydrogen monoxide) is composed of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. But you can't simply take two hydrogen atoms and stick them onto an oxygen atom. The actual reaction to make water is a bit more complicated: 2H2 + O2 = 2H2O + Energy.

In English, the equation says: To produce two molecules of water (H2O), two molecules of diatomic hydrogen (H2) must be combined with one molecule of diatomic oxygen (O2). Energy will be released in the process.

"This reaction (2H2 + O2 = 2H2O + Energy) has been known for two centuries, but until now no one has made it work in a homogeneous solution," said Thomas Rauchfuss, a U. of I. professor of chemistry and the paper's corresponding author.

The well-known reaction also describes what happens inside a hydrogen fuel cell.

In a typical fuel cell, the diatomic hydrogen gas enters one side of the cell, diatomic oxygen gas enters the other side. The hydrogen molecules lose their electrons and become positively charged through a process called oxidation, while the oxygen molecules gain four electrons and become negatively charged through a process called reduction. The negatively charged oxygen ions combine with positively charged hydrogen ions to form water and release electrical energy.

The "difficult side" of the fuel cell is the oxygen reduction reaction, not the hydrogen oxidation reaction, Rauchfuss said. "We found, however, that new catalysts for oxygen reduction could also lead to new chemical means for hydrogen oxidation."

Rauchfuss and Heiden recently investigated a relatively new generation of transfer hydrogenation catalysts for use as unconventional metal hydrides for oxygen reduction.

In their JACS paper, the researchers focus exclusively on the oxidative reactivity of iridium-based transfer hydogenation catalysts in a homogenous, non-aqueous solution. They found the iridium complex effects both the oxidation of alcohols, and the reduction of the oxygen.

"Most compounds react with either hydrogen or oxygen, but this catalyst reacts with both," Heiden said. "It reacts with hydrogen to form a hydride, and then reacts with oxygen to make water; and it does this in a homogeneous, non-aqueous solvent."

The new catalysts could lead to eventual development of more efficient hydrogen fuel cells, substantially lowering their cost, Heiden said.

The work was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Scientists Discover New Way To Make Water." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 November 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071031125457.htm>.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2007, November 1). Scientists Discover New Way To Make Water. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071031125457.htm
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Scientists Discover New Way To Make Water." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071031125457.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Space Race Pits Bezos Vs Musk

Reuters - Business Video Online (Sep. 16, 2014) Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' startup will team up with Boeing and Lockheed to develop rocket engines as Elon Musk races to have his rockets certified. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
MIT's Robot Cheetah Unleashed — Can Now Run, Jump Freely

MIT's Robot Cheetah Unleashed — Can Now Run, Jump Freely

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) MIT developed a robot modeled after a cheetah. It can run up to speeds of 10 mph, though researchers estimate it will eventually reach 30 mph. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Manufacturer Prints 3-D Car In Record Time

Manufacturer Prints 3-D Car In Record Time

Newsy (Sep. 15, 2014) Automobile manufacturer Local Motors created a drivable electric car using a 3-D printer. Printing the body only took 44 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Refurbished New York Subway Tunnel Unveiled After Sandy Damage

Refurbished New York Subway Tunnel Unveiled After Sandy Damage

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 15, 2014) New York officials unveil subway tunnels that were refurbished after Superstorm Sandy. Nathan Frandino reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins