Kasun Gunasooriya, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the School of Sustainable Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering at the University of Oklahoma, co-authored a primer article in Nature Reviews, Methods Primers that posits best practices for water electrolysis research.
Electrochemistry is the study of electricity as it relates to chemical reactions. Many methods of producing human-made materials, fuels and chemicals rely on non-renewable energy sources. Using electrochemistry, scientists can transform molecules using electricity generated through renewable sources.
“Electrolysis, over the last 5 to 10 years, has really picked up as a way to produce chemicals sustainably on an industrial scale,” Gunasooriya said. “Right now, we’re using mostly fossil fuels to meet our energy demands. Electrochemistry is pretty cool because we can turn renewable electricity into chemicals, and we can then generate electricity back using these chemicals. We don’t need to use fossil fuels.”
One example of this process is what’s known as green hydrogen, hydrogen that is generated by using renewable energy to power the electrolysis of water. This process produces only hydrogen and oxygen without carbon. Green hydrogen is considered a key element in reducing carbon emissions to the atmosphere.
“Right now, we get most of our hydrogen from methane,” Gunasooriya said. “We split methane to produce carbon and hydrogen. That carbon ends up becoming carbon dioxide. We need hydrogen in most of the products we use nowadays, including fertilizers. Electrolysis is one of those reactions where we can produce green hydrogen.”
The article emphasizes the importance of collaboration between industry and academia to engineer optimized systems for water electrolysis and highlights the role of hydrogen in society’s energy transition. The article also provides best practices for running clean laboratory-scale electrochemical systems and tips for analyzing electrochemical data to improve accuracy and reproducibility.