Enhanced Water Splitting with Protic Buffer/Electrolyte Cocatalysts

Case ID:

This invention is a protic co-catalyst used to increase the rate of electrolysis for splitting water to hydrogen and oxygen in a hydrogen evolving reaction. The co-catalyst is present in the electrolyte and is not consumed during the reaction. The co-catalyst may enhance the efficiency of water-splitting in systems that use a heterogenous catalyst, such as platinum, or a homogenous catalyst, such as water-soluble hydrogenase. The co-catalyst may significantly reduce the overpotential energy requirement and/or may increase the current density of the electrochemical system. This invention may be broadly applicable to various water-splitting system designs and may improve the efficiency of hydrogen production from solar energy conversion systems.



There is a tremendous world-wide interest in developing clean and abundant energy sources as alternatives to fossil fuels to satisfy the rapidly growing need for energy. Development of solar voltaic cells to convert solar energy into electrical energy is very promising. However, solar energy production is intermittent and the electrical energy generated therefrom, while useful, must be used immediately or it is lost. One promising way to store this energy is in the form of chemical bonds. Particularly promising is to warehouse this energy in the strong chemical bond in molecular hydrogen. The development of the “H2 economy,” which is a proposed system based on the production, storage, and utilization of hydrogen as an energy carrier, has generated considerable interest. Unfortunately, H2 production by the electrolytic splitting of water using current technologies does not have the efficiency to compete with steam reforming of natural gas or other fossil fuel sources, largely because of the current relative costs for electricity from the grid. Thus, there remains a need for technologies with improved and efficient performance for generating hydrogen from water splitting.



  • Water splitting
  • Electrochemical hydrogen production
  • Solar energy conversion to chemical storage


  • Reduced overpotential requirement
  • Increased current density
  • Improved system efficiency for water-splitting, especially for solar energy conversion
Patent Information:
Contact For More Information:
Laura Silva
Sr. Licensing Manager, COS
The University of Arizona
Lead Inventor(s):
Dennis Lichtenberger
Richard Glass
Dong-Chul Pyun
William Brezinski
Kayla Clary
Metin Karayilan