Engineering platinum free nano-structured electro catalysts for hydrogen production by thermal spraying technology

Hydrocarbon-based fuels have been the primary source of energy for mankind for centuries. However, during the last century there has been an exponential increase in the utilization of such fuels and the demand for energy is growing continuously. Hydrocarbon fuels are the primary source of greenhouse emissions which are severely affecting the global climate and jeopardizing the living environment of future generations. All these issues drive a growing concern about finding suitable alternative fuels that can successfully replace the conventional fuels used in a wide spectrum of applications from electricity generation to automotive and aerospace applications. Of the alternate fuels tested or proposed, hydrogen is a promising candidate.

Besides others ways, water electrolysis is an interesting technology for hydrogen production.  Electrochemical hydrogen evolution involves several intermediate steps with hydrogen chemisorbed on the metal surface. The binding energy between the metal and hydrogen controls the reaction rate. A too weak or too high binding energy results in low hydrogen evolution reaction rates. Platinum have medium binding energies for hydrogen and is the best electrocatalyst for hydrogen production. However, platinum is an extremely rare element and there is an urgent need to find alternatives. An interesting candidate is nickel.  Nickel is not only interesting from is electrocatalytic activity, but as well due to its stability in strong alkaline solutions at elevated temperatures (typical condition in industrial hydrogen production by electrolysis). Contrary to platinum, no nickel supply constraints over long term are expected. Canada produces about 30% of the world supply of nickel.

The successful candidate will develop nano-structured nickel electro-catalysts by thermal spraying technology.

Thermal spraying technology allows forming porous and nano-strucutred coatings of various metals. The candidate will learn how to use this technology and, based on his developed experimental plan, will explore systematically the activity of the coatings. The samples will be prepared in house and/or in collaboration with an industrial partner. During the internship the candidate will work in close collaboration with the catalysis center of the University of Ottawa, where she/he will perform microscopic cauterizations, i.e.  scanning electron (SEM), transmission electron microscopy TEM),  high resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM)  imaging and X-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis. Electrochemical activity characterizations involve real electro-active surface determination (by CO-stripping), Tafel-plot analysis and determination of exchange current density.

Faculty Supervisor:

Dr. Rolf Wuthrich


Keesari Reddy



Engineering - mechanical


Alternative energy


Concordia University


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