5 years ago

Field-Assisted Splitting of Pure Water Based on Deep-Sub-Debye-Length Nanogap Electrochemical Cells

Field-Assisted Splitting of Pure Water Based on Deep-Sub-Debye-Length Nanogap Electrochemical Cells
Wei Wu, S. R. Narayanan, Yifei Wang
Owing to the low conductivity of pure water, using an electrolyte is common for achieving efficient water electrolysis. In this paper, we have fundamentally broken through this common sense by using deep-sub-Debye-length nanogap electrochemical cells to achieve efficient electrolysis of pure water (without any added electrolyte) at room temperature. A field-assisted effect resulted from overlapped electrical double layers can greatly enhance water molecules ionization and mass transport, leading to electron-transfer limited reactions. We have named this process “virtual breakdown mechanism” (which is completely different from traditional mechanisms) that couples the two half-reactions together, greatly reducing the energy losses arising from ion transport. This fundamental discovery has been theoretically discussed in this paper and experimentally demonstrated in a group of electrochemical cells with nanogaps between two electrodes down to 37 nm. On the basis of our nanogap electrochemical cells, the electrolysis current density from pure water can be significantly larger than that from 1 mol/L sodium hydroxide solution, indicating the much better performance of pure water splitting as a potential for on-demand clean hydrogen production.

Publisher URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acsnano.7b04038

DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.7b04038

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