Controlling Electron Spin to Improve Hydrogen Production Efficiency

During hydrolysis, water is split into hydrogen and oxygen gas; however, during this process hydrogen peroxide forms too. As a byproduct, hydrogen peroxide intervenes with the reaction rate.

The production of hydrogen peroxide is due to the spin of electrons. Thus, the Eindhoven University of Technology and the Weizmann Institute researchers found the way to control the spin of electrons that are involved in the reaction.

So, how can this new foundation be implemented in our world? The paper published in the American Chemical Society states that the water splitting by solar energy will be much more efficient. How can it affect the energy production?

As of today, the hydrogen fuel is the future of energy; yet, it does not have enough efficiency to dominate the energy industry. One of the ways to produce hydrogen is through photovoltaics or solar cells. When hydrogen peroxide forms during the reaction, it has detrimental effects on one of the electrodes. The new discovery will help eliminate this reduction in efficiency.

The Electron Spin

Bert Meijer and Ron Naaman are the first two researchers to analyze the effect of the electron spin on oxidation, which is oxygen gas formation. The theory circled around the idea of the spins aligning, thus blocking the formation of hydrogen peroxide. This is due to the chemical nature of hydrogen peroxide and oxygen. While hydrogen peroxide cannot have oppositely spinning electrons, oxygen can.

How Was This Performed?

The group decided to use chiral carbons, molecules that mirror each other but are not the same. Such chiral structure is due to the electron spins. Thus, Naaman’s group decided to cover the titanium oxide with a chiral molecule, causing the suppression of hydrogen peroxide formation with electron spin alignment.

This is Just the Beginning

The researchers say that at this point, their aim was to control the reaction to have more efficient results. To do that, they had to analyze the reaction and understand the reason behind it first, so that they can intervene to have better results. Bert Meijer admitted that the chiral molecule, supramolecular structure, was not the primary solution to the efficiency problem. This represents the fundamental importance and effect of chiral molecules in many different reactions.


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