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Nanoparticle opens door to clean-energy alternatives


Hydrogen gas bubbling off the surface of a nickel phosphide crystal

Cheaper, clean-energy technologies could be made possible due to the discovery that an important chemical reaction that generates hydrogen from water is effectively triggered--or catalyzed--by a nanoparticle composed of nickel and phosphorus, two inexpensive elements that are abundant on Earth. This image illustrates hydrogen gas bubbling off the surface of a nickel phosphide crystal.

The discovery was made by a team of researchers led by Raymond Schaak, a professor of chemistry at Penn State University. "Nanoparticle technology has already started to open the door to cheaper and cleaner energy that is also 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. 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. Insights from this discovery may lead to even better catalysts in the future."

This research was funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation (CHE 08-02907). Further information about this research is available in the Penn State news story Nanoparticle Opens the Door to Clean-Energy Alternatives. (Date of Image: June 2013)

Credit: Eric Popczun, Raymond Schaak Lab, Penn State University
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