Science & Tech

IIT Mandi’s novel catalyst makes hydrogen a more feasible fuel source

  • IIT Mandi scientists have developed an innovative carbon-based catalyst that can improve the efficiency of water electrolysis to produce green hydrogen.

Water Electrolysis and Its Difficulties

  • Water electrolysis is the process of splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity inside an electrolyser.
  • This procedure, however, consumes a significant amount of electrical energy.
  • A common approach is to use a catalyst to induce the water molecules to split at a much lower energy level.
  • The better catalysts are frequently based on the metals iridium and ruthenium, which are costly, in high demand in other industries, and not reliably stable as the reaction proceeds.

Breakthrough at IIT: Laser Carbon Development

  • Researchers created a porous carbon substance containing nitrogen that serves as a catalyst as well as the anode in electrolyser units.
  • This material, known as “laser carbon,” was created by exposing a sheet of polyimide to a laser beam, which carbonised the exposed bits while leaving the rest rich in nitrogen.

What is the procedure for using laser carbon?

  • The nitrogen atoms in laser carbon attract electron clouds, causing nearby carbon atoms to bond with atoms or molecules holding electron pairs.
  • As a result, the positions of these atoms become active sites for the oxygen evolution process. (OER).
  • Because it moves slowly and with many intermediate stages, OER is a bottleneck in this ideal reaction process, lowering total reaction efficiency.
  • Laser carbon provides a solution to this problem by lowering the OER overpotential, which causes the reaction to start sooner and with greater vigour.

Advantages of laser carbon

  • There are several benefits to using laser carbon over other carbon-based catalysts.
  • It is “highly power efficient,” less expensive to make, uses a simpler synthesis method, and “can be batch-manufactured with a laser.”
  • The manufacturing process is also environmentally friendly because no waste is produced and no wet chemicals must be disposed of.
  • It also does not require a substrate because it is self-supported in the shape of a film that serves as both an electrode and an electrocatalyst.


  • Laser carbon’s catalytic activity is similar to that of some metals, but not identical.
  • This issue may be addressed by further advancements in the fabrication process and the use of other polymers.
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