UCLA researchers partner with scholars in Israel to develop novel spin-based technology for efficient hydrogen production

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A binational team, led by Professors Paul S. Weiss and Anne M. Andrews at UCLA, Professor Yossi Paltiel at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Professor Ron Naaman at the Weizmann Institute of Science, is one of the two teams selected to the 2023 cross-disciplinary collaborative research program for Climate Solutions by the U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation. The team will use nanoscale coatings to enhance the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of electrochemical production of hydrogen, a clean, sustainable energy source with minimal environmental impact.

The U.S.-Israel Binational Science Foundation (BSF) is dedicated to promoting research collaboration between the U.S. and Israel for science innovation that can benefit the whole world. The newly funded BSF Climate Solutions program provides a four-year support to promising research that can mitigate the impact of climate change on the natural and human environment.

The research team focuses on green hydrogen production through water splitting as an alternative to the conventional hydrogen production from nonrenewable energy such as oil, which emits CO2 as a byproduct. Electrochemical water splitting requires high energy input and the cost of production is significantly higher. To enhance hydrogen production through water electrolysis, the team will investigate coating the electrode with chiral molecular layers, which may be able to increase the efficiency of hydrogen production by more than 30% according to preliminary results. The successful design of chiral-materials-coated electrodes targets making the electrically produced hydrogen commercially favorable and thereby help reduce CO2 emission.

“It is exciting that we will explore the fundamental science of electron transport and spin selectivity in well-defined molecules and also be able to quantify real-world effects,” Weiss said. “We will test how electrochemical reactions can be enhanced and directed using chiral molecular layers and self-assembly, which are among our specialties.”

The materials preparation and optimization will be done at UCLA and the electrochemical measurements will be measured at Hebrew University, with advice from Naaman at the Weizmann Institute.

Professors Anne Andrews and Paul Weiss have developed self- and directed assembly and chemical patterning during their long-running collaboration. Andrews has additional expertise in applying electrochemistry to in vivo studies of neuroscience. Weiss has previously used electrochemistry for chemical patterning and measuring chemical interactions. Professor Yossi Paltiel at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Professor Ron Naaman at the Weizmann Institute of Science are both pioneers in the field of chirality induced spin selectivity, which Naaman first discovered in 1999.

Article by Zhuoying Lin (Duan Group), UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, zylin@g.ucla.edu. Lin is a chemistry graduate student and science writer who joined our program in Fall 2021.  Read more of Lin’s UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry articles here.