HOUSTON, Oct. 5 (Xinhua) -- A new technique was developed in the United States which allows researchers to quickly probe atom-thick materials to measure hydrogen production, and which may accelerate the development of 2-D materials for energy applications, such as fuel cells.
According to a news release issued by the Rice University in the southern U.S. state of Texas on Thursday, the Rice lab of materials scientist Jun Lou, with colleagues at Los Alamos National Laboratory of the State of New Mexico, developed a technique to probe through tiny "windows" created by an electron beam and measure the catalytic activity of molybdenum disulfide, a two-dimensional material that shows promise for applications that use electrocatalysis to extract hydrogen from water.
Initial tests on two variations of the material proved that most production is coming from the thin sheets' edges. Researchers already knew the edges of 2-D materials are where the catalytic action is, so any information that helps maximize it is valuable, Lou said.
"We're using this new technology to identify the active sites that have been long-predicted by theory," he said. "There was some indirect proof that the edge sites are always more active than the basal planes, but now we have direct proof."
The probe-bearing microchips developed at Los Alamos and the method created by Lou and lead author Jing Zhang, a Rice postdoctoral researcher, open a pathway to fast screening of potential hydrogen evolution reaction candidates among two-dimensional materials.
The researchers reported their results this month in Advanced Materials.