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Biomass-derived Hydrogen-evolution catalyst and electrode

Brookhaven National Laboratory

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Representation of catalyst formation and activity.
Representation of catalyst formation and activity.

Technology Marketing Summary

A simply made, inexpensive combination of biomass and earth-abundant metals has resulted in a durable catalyst for splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen, which can be used as a fuel. Biomass comprising protein-rich seeds or nuts of legumes heated in the presence of transition metal salts produced a material that is useful as an electrocatalyst and an electrode. The costs associated with electrolysis, the splitting of water into oxygen and hydrogen, are no longer dictated by the price per ounce of the precious, noble metal platinum catalysts.


Non-noble metal nitride and carbide nanosheets had been shown to act as effective, low cost alternatives to precious metal, platinum catalysts for electrolysis. These earth-abundant metal nitride and carbide nanosheets have been made more cost-effective by using biomass substitutes for the nitride and carbide materials. It has been found that calcining transition metal salts with protein-rich powdered biomass derived from seeds and nuts produces effective hydrogen-evolution catalysts. The material can be layered onto graphene or other materials to create stable electrodes for electrolyzers. The effective ratio of transition metal salt to biomass can be adjusted depending upon the source of the biomass. Powdered soybean meal and ammonium molybdate heated in a solid-state reaction form compositions of Mo-Nitride and Mo-carbide as the electrocatalytic material


The majority of the cost of current electrolyzers is a result of the requirement for use of noble-metal catalysts, particularly platinum. Replacement with considerably less expensive catalysts that are highly active and stable can result in new electrolyzers at a lower cost. The present catalysts and electrodes are particularly useful as their manufacture requires little, if any technically challenging steps or processes.

Applications and Industries

Companies in the renewable energy business, manufacturers of electrolyzers, and catalyst providers may be interested in this new hydrogen evolution reaction catalyst.

More Information

WO 2014/055533 published on April 10, 2014

Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
BSA 12-45PrototypeAvailable01/10/201401/10/2014

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To: Avijit Sen<>