3D Printed Membraneless Water Electrolysis Cells

Monday, October 12, 2015: 15:20
Remington A (Hyatt Regency)
G. D. O'Neil (Columbia University) and D. Esposito (National Institute of Standards and Technology)
Hydrogen (H2) has emerged as a promising candidate for both clean energy storage and as an alternative to fossil fuels. Currently, the majority of H2 is produced via methane reformation, which emits one molecule of CO2 for every three molecules of H2 and thus contributes to climate change.1 Alternative methods towards H2 production include direct photoelectrochemical water-splitting using semiconducting photoelectrodes,2 or using a membrane electrode assembly (MEA), which can be powered using renewable power sources. Direct production of H2 using semiconductor photoelectrodes is very promising, but there are issues remaining with electrode stability and efficiency. While remaining the industry standard, electrolysis using a MEA is costly and is most commonly performed in acidic solutions.

Here we present novel device architectures for water splitting which utilizes additive manufacturing (e.g. - 3D printing) to produce hydrogen and oxygen gas with minimal product crossover. Additive manufacturing has the benefits of: low-cost, ability to rapidly prototype, and use renewable materials (e.g. – poly(lactic acid)).3 In our design, a flowing electrolyte solution impinges upon two electrodes, which are placed in close proximity to minimize solution resistance (measured to be ~3 Ω in 0.25 M H2SO4). The low Ohmic losses enable current densities up to 300 mA cm-2, and can be used in acidic, basic and neutral electrolytes because no membrane is required. The product gas streams are separated by a thin divider placed downstream of the electrodes, so that product crossover is essentially zero.  The results compare well with previously reported studies,4 but eliminate the complicated processing times and device complexities required.


(1)          Navarro, R. M.; Peña, M. A.; Fierro, J. L. G. Hydrogen Production Reactions from Carbon Feedstocks: Fossil Fuels and Biomass. Chem. Rev. 2007, 107, 3952–3991.

(2)          Walter, M. G.; Warren, E. L.; McKone, J. R.; Boettcher, S. W.; Mi, Q.; Santori, E. A.; Lewis, N. S. Solar Water Splitting Cells. Chem. Rev. 2010, 110, 6446–6473.

(3)          Chisholm, G.; Kitson, P. J.; Kirkaldy, N. D.; Bloor, L. G.; Cronin, L. 3D Printed Flow Plates for the Electrolysis of Water: An Economic and Adaptable Approach to Device Manufacture. Energy Environ. Sci. 2014, 7, 3026–3032.

(4)          Hosseini Hashemi, S. M.; Modestino, M. a.; Psaltis, D. Membrane-Less Microelectrolyzer for Hydrogen Production across the pH Scale. Energy Environ. Sci. 2015, DOI: 10.1039/C5EE00083A.