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Improved water electrolysis using magnetic heating of FeC–Ni core–shell nanoparticles

Nature Energyvolume 3pages476483 (2018) | Download Citation


Water electrolysis enables the storage of renewable electricity via the chemical bonds of hydrogen. However, proton-exchange-membrane electrolysers are impeded by the high cost and low availability of their noble-metal electrocatalysts, whereas alkaline electrolysers operate at a low power density. Here, we demonstrate that electrocatalytic reactions relevant for water splitting can be improved by employing magnetic heating of noble-metal-free catalysts. Using nickel-coated iron carbide nanoparticles, which are prone to magnetic heating under high-frequency alternating magnetic fields, the overpotential (at 20 mA cm−2) required for oxygen evolution in an alkaline water-electrolysis flow-cell was decreased by 200 mV and that for hydrogen evolution was decreased by 100 mV. This enhancement of oxygen-evolution kinetics is equivalent to a rise of the cell temperature to ~200 °C, but in practice it increased by 5 °C only. This work suggests that, in the future, water splitting near the equilibrium voltage could be possible at room temperature, which is currently beyond reach in the classic approach to water electrolysis.

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The authors thank Engie and its scientific director J.-P. Reich for its willingness to explore breakthrough technologies and funding the present feasibility study in 2016, in which we explored magnetic heating-improved alkaline water electrolysis. The electrochemical characterizations were performed at LEPMI, within the framework of the Centre of Excellence of Multifunctional Architectured Materials (CEMAM no. AN-10-LABX-44-01). M.C. also thanks the IUF for funding.

Author information


  1. University of Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, Grenoble INP, LEPMI, Grenoble, France

    • Christiane Niether
    • , Jonathan Deseure
    •  & Marian Chatenet
  2. University of Savoie Mont Blanc, LEPMI, Chambéry, France

    • Christiane Niether
    • , Jonathan Deseure
    •  & Marian Chatenet
  3. Laboratoire de Physique et Chimie des Nano Objets, INSA, Université de Toulouse, Toulouse, France

    • Stéphane Faure
    • , Alexis Bordet
    • , Julian Carrey
    •  & Bruno Chaudret
  4. French University Institute (IUF), Paris, France

    • Marian Chatenet
  5. Science & Tec, Manerbe, France

    • Alain Rouet


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C.N. contributed to the experimental work, data analysis and writing of the manuscript. S.F. contributed to the experimental work and review of the manuscript. A.B. contributed to the experimental work. J.D. contributed to the project planning, experimental work, data analysis and writing of the manuscript. M.C. contributed to the project planning, experimental work, data analysis and writing of the manuscript. J.C. contributed to the data analysis and writing of the manuscript. B.C. contributed to the project planning, data analysis and writing of the manuscript. A.R. had the original idea of the study, and contributed to the project planning and review of the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Marian Chatenet or Julian Carrey.

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