Improving water-splitting efficiency of water electrolysis process via highly conductive nanomaterials at lower voltages

  • 19 Accesses


The present study explores the opportunity to enhance the hydrogen production rate (HPR) at lower voltage in water electrolysis process by introducing conductive nanoparticles into electrolyte. The development of sustainable, cost-effective, reliable, clean, efficient, and renewable resources of energy systems is crucial for meeting the increasing energy demand. Among the various technologies developed to produce hydrogen, water electrolysis is the simplest, easy to operate, and ready to use in many industries, but it is still not cost-effective. Three different conductive nanomaterials: graphene nanoflakes, multi-wall carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs), and indium tin oxide, were incorporated into acidic electrolyte solutions of the water-splitting process. Experimental results reveal that among these nanomaterials, the incorporation of MWCNTs and graphene nanoflakes into electrolyte solutions considerably improved HPR. The highest HPR was observed at MWCNTs concentration of between 0.25 and 0.5 wt%. At 0.5 wt% MWCNTs and applied voltage of 4 V, about 170% improvement in the HPR was achieved when compared to base case (without nanoparticles into the electrolyte). An applied voltage of 10 V with the same MWCNTs concentration produced the maximum HPR of 2.7 ml/min. At the same concentration and voltage, the introduction of graphene into the electrolyte produced HPR of 2.5 ml/min. The effects of acid concentration and temperature on the HPR were also investigated. The HPR gradually increased with increasing acid concentrations in the dispersion due to the concentrations of ionic activators, which weakens the strength between oxygen and hydrogen bonds. Higher temperature also ameliorates the HPR because of the reduced bond strength. This approach of using nanomaterials in the electrolysis process could save up to 30% of energy input during this procedure.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9


  1. Alferedo U, Gandia LM, Sanchis P (2012) Hydrogen production from water electrolysis: current status and future trends. Proc Inst Electr Electron Eng 100(2):410–426.

  2. Asmatulu R (2013) Nanotechnology safety. Elsevier, Amsterdam

  3. Asmatulu R, Khan A, Adigoppula G, Hwang G (2017) Enhanced transport properties of graphene-based, thin Nafion® membrane for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells. Int J Energy Res 42:508–519.

  4. Ball M, Basile A, Veziroglu TN (2015) Compendium of hydrogen energy: hydrogen use, safety, and the hydrogen economy. Woodhead Publishing Series in Energy, New York

  5. Bhuyan MSA, Uddin MN, Bipasha FA, Islam MM, Hossain SS (2015) A review of functionalized graphene, properties and its applications. Int J Innov Sci Res 17(2):303–315

  6. Bhuyan MSA, Uddin MN, Bipasha FA, Hossain SS (2016) Synthesis of graphene. Int Nano Lett 6:65–83.

  7. De Souza FR, Loget G, Padilha JC, Martini EMA, de Souza MO (2008) Molybdenum electrodes for hydrogen production by water electrolysis using ionic liquid electrolytes. Electrochem Commun 10:1673–1675.

  8. Desai FJ, Dave P, Tailor H (2014) Performance and emission assessment of hydro-oxy gas in 4-stroke engine. Int J Mech Eng Technol 5(9):455–462

  9. Dubey PK, Sinha ASK, Talapatra S, Koratkar N, Ajayan PM, Srivastava ON (2010) Hydrogen generation by water electrolysis using carbon nanotube anode. Int J Hydrog Energy 35:3945–3950.

  10. Esposito VD, Hunt ST, Kimmel YC, Chen JG (2012) A new class of electrocatalysts for hydrogen production from water electrolysis: metal monolayers supported on low-cost transition metal carbides. J Am Chem Soc 134:3025–3033.

  11. Freda C, Nanna F, Villone A, Barisano D, Brandani S, Cornacchia G (2019) Air gasification of digestate and its co-gasification with residual biomass in a pilot scale rotary kiln. Int J Energy Environ Eng 8:1–12.

  12. International Energy Agency Technical Report (2013) 2013 Key world energy. Statistics.

  13. Jayabal S, Saranya G, Wu J, Liu Y, Geng D, Meng X (2017) Understanding the high-electrocatalytic performance of two-dimensional MoS2 nanosheets and their composite materials. J Mater Chem A 5:24540–24563

  14. Kaminski MPM (2007) Catalytic activity of Pt-based intermetallics for the hydrogen production—influence of the ionic activator. Appl Catal A Gen 321:93–99.

  15. Krishna SV, Kumar PK, Verma K, Bhagawan D, Himabindu V, Narasu ML, Singh R (2019) Enhancement of biohydrogen production from distillery spent wash effluent using electrocoagulation process. Energy Ecol Environ 4(4):160–165.

  16. Kumar SSA, Uddin MN, Rahman MM, Asmatulu R (2018) Introducing graphene thin films into carbon fiber composite structures for lightning strike protection. Polym Compos 40(S1):E517–E525

  17. Merki D, Fierro S, Vrubel H, Hu X (2011) Amorphous molybdenum sulfide films as catalysts for electrochemical hydrogen production in water. Chem Sci 2:1262–1267.

  18. Nageshkar V, Srikanth M, Jurak E, Asmatulu R (2013) Effects of conductive nanomaterials on hydrogen production during electrolysis. In: ASME International mechanical engineering congress and exposition, San Diego, CA, 2014,

  19. Nuraje N, Asmatulu R, Mul G (2015) Green photo-active nanomaterials: sustainable energy and environmental remediation. RSC Publishing, Cambridge

  20. Patel CRP, Tripathi P, Vishwakarma AK, Talat M, Soni PK, Yadav TP, Srivastava ON (2018) Enhanced hydrogen generation by water electrolysis employing carbon nano-structure composites. Int J Hydrog Energy 43:3180–3189.

  21. Sakintuna B, Lamari-Darkrim F, Hirscher M (2007) Metal hydride materials for hydrogen storage: a review. Int J Hydrog Energy 32(9):1121–1140.

  22. Salahuddin M, Uddin MN, Hwang G, Asmatulu R (2018) Superhydrophobic PAN nanofibers for gas diffusion layers of proton exchange membrane fuel cells for cathodic water management. Int J Hydrog Energy 43(25):11530–11538.

  23. Tao H, Gao Y, Talreja N, Guo F, Texter J, Yan C, Sun Z (2017) Two-dimensional nanosheets for electrocatalysis in energy generation and conversion. J Mater Chem A 5:7257–7284

  24. Uddin MN, Huang ZD, Mai YW, Kim JK (2014) Tensile and tearing fracture properties of graphene oxide papers intercalated with carbon nanotubes. Carbon 77:481–491.

  25. Uddin MN, Dhillon M, Misak H, Asmatulu R (2018) Post-growing CNTs on CNT wires to study the physical property changes. In: Composite and advanced materials expo (CAMX) conference, Dallas, TX

  26. Uddin MN, Le L, Nair R, Asmatulu R (2019) Effects of graphene oxide thin films and nanocomposite coatings on flame retardancy and thermal stability of aircraft composites: a comparative study. J Eng Mater Technol 141(3):031004.

  27. Wang M, Wang Z, Gong Z, Guo Z (2014) The intensification technologies to water electrolysis for hydrogen production—a review. Renew Sustain Energy Rev 29:573–588.

  28. Yoro KO, Sekoai PT, Isadiade AJ, Daramola MO (2019) A review on heat and mass integration techniques for energy and material minimization during CO2 capture. Int J Energy Environ Eng 10:1–21.

Download references


The authors would like to acknowledge the NSF EPSCOR and Wichita State University for the financial and technical support of this work.

Author information

Correspondence to R. Asmatulu.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

There is no conflict of interest with respect to the research, authorship of this article.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Uddin, M.N., Nageshkar, V.V. & Asmatulu, R. Improving water-splitting efficiency of water electrolysis process via highly conductive nanomaterials at lower voltages. Energ. Ecol. Environ. (2020).

Download citation


  • Hydrogen production rate
  • Conductive nanoparticles
  • Lower energy input
  • Renewable energy