Hydrogen production by Urea electrolysis

An electro-catalyst system for hydrogen production by urea electrolysis was developed by Indian Scientists.

Urea electrolysis

  • Scientists from the Centre for Nano and Soft Matter Sciences (CeNS), an autonomous institute of the Department of Science & Technology developed the Nickel oxide (NiOx) based system for production of hydrogen from electro-oxidation of urea.
  • Traditionally, hydrogen is produced by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. In urea electrolysis, instead of splitting of water, urea undergoes electro-oxidation.
  • In the urea electrolysis, Ni-based catalysts are used, which are abundant and low cost.

Advantages of urea electrolysis

  • India is one of the largest urea producing countries and in 2019-20 India produced 244.55 LMT of urea.
  • However, the nitrogenous fertilizer industries generate huge amounts of urea as effluents. This urea can be utilized for the production of hydrogen.
  • Thus, urea electrolysis for hydrogen production helps in urea-based waste treatment. Also, low-cost hydrogen can be produced, which can be used as fuel.
  • This process also saves energy. This is because urea electrolysis requires 70% less energy as compared to the production of hydrogen through water electrolysis.

Challenge with urea oxidation

The big challenge associated with oxidation of urea in urea electrolysis is retaining the prolonged activity of the catalyst. It is a challenge because the strong adsorption of the reactive intermediate (COx) on the active site causes activity loss.

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