Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Electrolysis of low-grade and saline surface water

A Publisher Correction to this article was published on 11 May 2021

This article has been updated

Abstract

Powered by renewable energy sources such as solar, marine, geothermal and wind, generation of storable hydrogen fuel through water electrolysis provides a promising path towards energy sustainability. However, state-of-the-art electrolysis requires support from associated processes such as desalination of water sources, further purification of desalinated water, and transportation of water, which often contribute financial and energy costs. One strategy to avoid these operations is to develop electrolysers that are capable of operating with impure water feeds directly. Here we review recent developments in electrode materials/catalysts for water electrolysis using low-grade and saline water, a significantly more abundant resource worldwide compared to potable water. We address the associated challenges in design of electrolysers, and discuss future potential approaches that may yield highly active and selective materials for water electrolysis in the presence of common impurities such as metal ions, chloride and bio-organisms.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: The Pourbaix diagram of an aqueous saline electrolyte.
Fig. 2: Leading configurations for water electrolysis.
Fig. 3: Experimental implementation of the alkaline design criterion of saline water splitting.
Fig. 4: Water oxidation activity and stability of oxide catalysts and influence of anionic and cationic contaminations.
Fig. 5: Selective OER catalysts by Cl blocking overlayers.
Fig. 6: Challenges and potential solutions to improve long-term stability of HER in low-grade water.

Change history

References

  1. 1.

    Vörösmarty, C. J. et al. Global threats to human water security and river biodiversity. Nature 467, 555–561 (2010).

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Spröte, W. in A Concise Encyclopedia of the United Nations Vol. 07404 (ed Volger, H.) 147–152 (Brill, 2010).

  3. 3.

    The Future of Hydrogen (International Energy Agency, 2019).

  4. 4.

    Bezdek, R. H. The hydrogen economy and jobs of the future. Renew. Energy Environ. Sustain. 4, 1 (2019).

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Moliner, R., Lázaro, M. J. & Suelves, I. Analysis of the strategies for bridging the gap towards the Hydrogen Economy. Int. J. Hydrog. Energy 41, 19500–19508 (2016).

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Deutsch, T. G. & Turner, J. A. Semiconductor Materials for Photoelectrolysis: 2014 Annual Progress Report U. S. DOE Hydrogen & Fuel Cells Program (Department of Energy, 2014).

  7. 7.

    Ramsden, T., Ruth, M., Diakov, V., Laffen, M. & Timbario, T. A. Hydrogen Pathways: Updated Cost, Well-to-Wheels Energy Use, and Emissions for the Current Technology Status of Ten Hydrogen Production, Delivery, and Distribution Scenarios (National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2013).

  8. 8.

    Ursúa, A., Gandía, L. M. & Sanchis, P. Hydrogen production from water electrolysis: current status and future trends. Proc. IEEE 100, 410–426 (2012).

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Xiang, C., Papadantonakis, K. M. & Lewis, N. S. Principles and implementations of electrolysis systems for water splitting. Mater. Horiz. 3, 169–173 (2016).

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Matute, G., Yusta, J. M. & Correas, L. C. Techno-economic modelling of water electrolysers in the range of several MW to provide grid services while generating hydrogen for different applications: a case study in Spain applied to mobility with FCEVs. Int. J. Hydrog. Energy 44, 17431–17442 (2019).

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Chardonnet, C. et al. Study on Early Business Cases for H2 in Energy Storage and More Broadly Power To H2 Applications (EU Commission, 2017).

  12. 12.

    Karagiannis, I. C. & Soldatos, P. G. Water desalination cost literature: review and assessment. Desalination 223, 448–456 (2008).

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Fourmond, V., Jacques, P. A., Fontecave, M. & Artero, V. H2 evolution and molecular electrocatalysts: Determination of Overpotentials and effect of homoconjugation. Inorg. Chem. 49, 10338–10347 (2010).

    Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Bennett, J. E. Electrodes for generation of hydrogen and oxygen from seawater. Int. J. Hydrog. Energy 5, 401–408 (1980).

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Katsounaros, I. et al. The effective surface pH during reactions at the solid-liquid interface. Electrochem. commun. 13, 634–637 (2011).

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Auinger, M. et al. Near-surface ion distribution and buffer effects during electrochemical reactions. Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 13, 16384–16394 (2011).

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Dionigi, F., Reier, T., Pawolek, Z., Gliech, M. & Strasser, P. Design criteria, operating conditions, and nickel-iron hydroxide catalyst materials for selective seawater electrolysis. ChemSusChem 9, 962–972 (2016). In this study, a general design criterion for oxygen-selective seawater splitting is derived from thermodynamic and kinetic considerations. Noble-metal-free NiFe double hydroxide electrocatalysts are demonstrated for selective oxygen evolution in seawater.

  18. 18.

    Kapp, E. M. The precipitation of calcium and magnesium from sea water by sodium hydroxide. Biol. Bull. 55, 453–458 (1928).

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Kirk, D. W. & Ledas, A. E. Precipitate formation during sea water electrolysis. Int. J. Hydrog. Energy 7, 925–932 (1982).

    Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Dresp, S. & Strasser, P. Non-noble metal oxides and their application as bifunctional catalyst in reversible fuel cells and rechargeable air batteries. ChemCatChem 10, 4162–4171 (2018).

    Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Dresp, S. et al. Direct electrolytic splitting of seawater: activity, selectivity, degradation, and recovery studied from the molecular catalyst structure to the electrolyzer cell level. Adv. Energy Mater. 8, 1800338 (2018). This work reports a nanostructured NiFe-layered double hydroxide and Pt nanoparticles for electrolysis of artificial alkaline seawater. Membrane-induced stability losses are investigated and a recovery effect is identified using an on/off cycle.

    Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Adbel-Aal, H. K. & Hussein, I. A. Parametric study for saline water electrolysis: part 1-hydrogen production. Int. J. Hydrog. Energy 18, 485–489 (1993).

    Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Oh, B. S. et al. Formation of hazardous inorganic by-products during electrolysis of seawater as a disinfection process for desalination. Sci. Total Environ. 408, 5958–5965 (2010).

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Dresp, S., Dionigi, F., Klingenhof, M. & Strasser, P. Direct electrolytic splitting of seawater: opportunities and challenges. ACS Energy Lett. 4, 933–942 (2019).

    Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Carmo, M., Fritz, D. L., Mergel, J. & Stolten, D. A comprehensive review on PEM water electrolysis. Int. J. Hydrog. Energy 38, 4901–4934 (2013).

    Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Vincent, I. & Bessarabov, D. Low cost hydrogen production by anion exchange membrane electrolysis: A review. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 81, 1690–1704 (2018).

    Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Meng, Y. et al. Review: recent progress in low-temperature proton-conducting ceramics. J. Mater. Sci. 54, 9291–9312 (2019).

    Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Laguna-Bercero, M. A. Recent advances in high temperature electrolysis using solid oxide fuel cells: a review. J. Power Sources 203, 4–16 (2012).

    Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Mauritz, K. A. & Moore, R. B. State of understanding of Nafion. Chem. Rev. 104, 4535–4586 (2004).

    Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Chae, K. J. et al. Mass transport through a proton exchange membrane (Nafion) in microbial fuel cells. Energy Fuels 22, 169–176 (2008).

    Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Müller, M. et al. Water management in membrane electrolysis and options for advanced plants. Int. J. Hydrog. Energy 44, 10147–10155 (2019).

    Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Schalenbach, M., Lueke, W. & Stolten, D. Hydrogen diffusivity and electrolyte permeability of the Zirfon PERL separator for alkaline water electrolysis. J. Electrochem. Soc. 163, 1480–1488 (2016).

    Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Lim, C. K., Liu, Q., Zhou, J., Sun, Q. & Chan, S. H. High-temperature electrolysis of synthetic seawater using solid oxide electrolyzer cells. J. Power Sources 342, 79–87 (2017).

    Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Hine, F., O’Brien, T. F. & Bommaraju, T. V. Handbook of Chlor-alkali Technology, Volume I: Fundamentals (Springer, 2005).

  35. 35.

    Karlsson, R. K. B. & Cornell, A. Selectivity between oxygen and chlorine evolution in the chlor-alkali and chlorate processes. Chem. Rev. 116, 2982–3028 (2016).

    Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Kumari, S., Turner White, R., Kumar, B. & Spurgeon, J. M. Solar hydrogen production from seawater vapor electrolysis. Energy Environ. Sci. 9, 1725–1733 (2016).

    Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Heremans, G. et al. Vapor-fed solar hydrogen production exceeding 15% efficiency using earth abundant catalysts and anion exchange membrane. Sustain. Energy Fuels 1, 2061–2065 (2017).

    Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Kida, T. et al. Water vapor electrolysis with proton-conducting graphene oxide nanosheets. ACS Sustain. Chem. Eng. 6, 11753–11758 (2018).

    Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    McCrory, C. C. L. et al. Benchmarking hydrogen evolving reaction and oxygen evolving reaction electrocatalysts for solar water splitting devices. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 137, 4347–4357 (2015).

    Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Gong, M. et al. An advanced Ni–Fe layered double hydroxide electrocatalyst for water oxidation. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 135, 8452–8455 (2013).

    Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Martindale, B. C. M. & Reisner, E. Bi-functional iron-only electrodes for efficient water splitting with enhanced stability through in situ electrochemical regeneration. Adv. Energy Mater. 6, 1502095 (2016). This report uses Fe-only materials as bi-functional electrocatalysts for both of the water splitting half reactions in alkaline media. The Fe materials show greater activity compared to previously reported bi-functional Co and Ni catalysts.

    Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Huang, W.-H. & Lin, C.-Y. Iron phosphate modified calcium iron oxide as an efficient and robust catalyst in electrocatalyzing oxygen evolution from seawater. Faraday Discuss. 215, 205–215 (2019).

    Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Juodkazytė, J. et al. Electrolytic splitting of saline water: durable nickel oxide anode for selective oxygen evolution. Int. J. Hydrog. Energy 44, 5929–5939 (2019). This study investigates a nickel oxide layer for electrocatalytic water oxidation and provides mechanistic insights into Ni(IV)-mediated electrocatalytic oxidation of water in alkaline chloride medium.

    Google Scholar 

  44. 44.

    Trasatti, S. Electrocatalysis in the anodic evolution of oxygen and chlorine. Electrochim. Acta 29, 1503–1512 (1984).

    Google Scholar 

  45. 45.

    Hansen, H. A. et al. Electrochemical chlorine evolution at rutile oxide (110) surfaces. Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 12, 283–290 (2010).

    Google Scholar 

  46. 46.

    Exner, K. S., Anton, J., Jacob, T. & Over, H. Controlling selectivity in the chlorine evolution reaction over RuO2-based catalysts. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 53, 11032–11035 (2014).

    Google Scholar 

  47. 47.

    Surendranath, Y. & Dinca, M. Electrolyte-dependent electrosynthesis and activity of cobalt-based water oxidation catalysts. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 131, 2615–2620 (2009).

    Google Scholar 

  48. 48.

    Cheng, F. et al. Synergistic action of Co-Fe layered double hydroxide electrocatalyst and multiple ions of sea salt for efficient seawater oxidation at near-neutral pH. Electrochim. Acta 251, 336–343 (2017).

    Google Scholar 

  49. 49.

    Zhao, Y. et al. Charge state manipulation of cobalt selenide catalyst for overall seawater electrolysis. Adv. Energy Mater. 8, 1801926 (2018).

    Google Scholar 

  50. 50.

    Zeradjanin, A. R., Menzel, N., Schuhmann, W. & Strasser, P. On the faradaic selectivity and the role of surface inhomogeneity during the chlorine evolution reaction on ternary Ti-Ru-Ir mixed metal oxide electrocatalysts. Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 16, 13741–13747 (2014).

    Google Scholar 

  51. 51.

    Macounová, K., Makarova, M., Jirkovský, J., Franc, J. & Krtil, P. Parallel oxygen and chlorine evolution on Ru1-xNixO2-y nanostructured electrodes. Electrochim. Acta 53, 6126–6134 (2008).

    Google Scholar 

  52. 52.

    Kishor, K., Saha, S., Parashtekar, A. & Pala, R. G. S. Increasing chlorine selectivity through weakening of oxygen adsorbates at surface in Cu doped RuO2 during seawater electrolysis. J. Electrochem. Soc. 165, J3276–J3280 (2018).

    Google Scholar 

  53. 53.

    Arikawa, T., Murakami, Y. & Takasu, Y. Simultaneous determination of chlorine and oxygen evolving at RuO2/Ti and RuO2-TiO2/Ti anodes by differential electrochemical mass spectroscopy. J. Appl. Electrochem. 28, 511–516 (1998).

    Google Scholar 

  54. 54.

    Karlsson, R. K. B., Hansen, H. A., Bligaard, T., Cornell, A. & Pettersson, L. G. M. Ti atoms in Ru0.3Ti0.7O2 mixed oxides form active and selective sites for electrochemical chlorine evolution. Electrochim. Acta 146, 733–740 (2014).

    Google Scholar 

  55. 55.

    Exner, K. S., Anton, J., Jacob, T. & Over, H. Chlorine evolution reaction on ruo2 (110): ab initio atomistic thermodynamics study - Pourbaix diagrams. Electrochim. Acta 120, 460–466 (2014).

    Google Scholar 

  56. 56.

    Sohrabnejad-Eskan, I. et al. Temperature-dependent kinetic studies of the chlorine evolution reaction over RuO2(110) model electrodes. ACS Catal. 7, 2403–2411 (2017).

    Google Scholar 

  57. 57.

    Petrykin, V., Macounova, K., Shlyakhtin, O. A. & Krtil, P. Tailoring the selectivity for electrocatalytic oxygen evolution on ruthenium oxides by zinc substitution. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 49, 4813–4815 (2010).

    Google Scholar 

  58. 58.

    Nong, H. N. et al. A unique oxygen ligand environment facilitates water oxidation in hole-doped IrNiOx core–shell electrocatalysts. Nat. Catal. 1, 841–851 (2018).

    Google Scholar 

  59. 59.

    Bergmann, A. et al. Unified structural motifs of the catalytically active state of Co(oxyhydr)oxides during the electrochemical oxygen evolution reaction. Nat. Catal. 1, 711–719 (2018).

    Google Scholar 

  60. 60.

    Beermann, V. et al. Real-time imaging of activation and degradation of carbon supported octahedral Pt–Ni alloy fuel cell catalysts at the nanoscale using in situ electrochemical liquid cell STEM. Energy Environ. Sci. 12, 2476–2485 (2019).

    Google Scholar 

  61. 61.

    Fabbri, E., Abbott, D. F., Nachtegaal, M. & Schmidt, T. J. Operando X-ray absorption spectroscopy: a powerful tool toward water splitting catalyst development. Curr. Opin. Electrochem. 5, 20–26 (2017).

    Google Scholar 

  62. 62.

    Hsu, S.-H. et al. An earth-abundant catalyst-based seawater photoelectrolysis system with 17.9% solar-to-hydrogen efficiency. Adv. Mater. 30, 1707261 (2018). This study uses density functional theory and experimental analysis to design and test a transition metal hexacyanometallate–cobalt–carbonate/NiMoS system for selective O2 evolution. The integrated system achieves a solar-to-hydrogen efficiency of 17.9% in seawater at neutral pH.

    Google Scholar 

  63. 63.

    Zeng, M. & Li, Y. Recent advances in heterogeneous electrocatalysts for the hydrogen evolution reaction. J. Mater. Chem. A 3, 14942–14962 (2015).

    Google Scholar 

  64. 64.

    Vos, J. G., Wezendonk, T. A., Jeremiasse, A. W. & Koper, M. T. M. MnOx/IrOx as selective oxygen evolution electrocatalyst in acidic chloride solution. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 140, 10270–10281 (2018). This report demonstrates that deposition of MnOx onto IrOx decreases the ClER selectivity of the system in the presence of 30 mM Cl from 86% to less than 7%, making it a highly OER-selective catalyst.

    Google Scholar 

  65. 65.

    Izumiya, K. et al. Anodically deposited manganese oxide and manganese-tungsten oxide electrodes for oxygen evolution from seawater. Electrochim. Acta 43, 3303–3312 (1998).

    Google Scholar 

  66. 66.

    Fujimura, K. et al. Anodically deposited manganese-molybdenum oxide anodes with high selectivity for evolving oxygen in electrolysis of seawater. J. Appl. Electrochem. 29, 765–771 (1999).

    Google Scholar 

  67. 67.

    Fujimura, K. et al. Oxygen evolution on manganese-molybdenum oxide anodes in seawater electrolysis. Mater. Sci. Eng. A 267, 254–259 (1999).

    Google Scholar 

  68. 68.

    Fujimura, K. et al. The durability of manganese–molybdenum oxide anodes for oxygen evolution in seawater electrolysis. Electrochim. Acta 45, 2297–2303 (2000).

    Google Scholar 

  69. 69.

    El-Moneim, A. A., Kumagai, N., Asami, K. & Hashimoto, K. New nanocrystallinemanganese-molybdenum-tin oxdie anodes for oxygen evolution in seatwater electrolysis. ECS Trans. 1, 491–497 (2006).

    Google Scholar 

  70. 70.

    Matsui, T. et al. Anodically deposited Mn-Mo-W oxide anodes for oxygen evolution in seawater electrolysis. J. Appl. Electrochem. 32, 993–1000 (2002).

    Google Scholar 

  71. 71.

    El-Moneim, A. A. Mn-Mo-W-oxide anodes for oxygen evolution during seawater electrolysis for hydrogen production: effect of repeated anodic deposition. Int. J. Hydrog. Energy 36, 13398–13406 (2011).

    Google Scholar 

  72. 72.

    Abdel Ghany, N. A., Kumagai, N., Meguro, S., Asami, K. & Hashimoto, K. Oxygen evolution anodes composed of anodically deposited Mn-Mo-Fe oxides for seawater electrolysis. Electrochim. Acta 48, 21–28 (2002).

    Google Scholar 

  73. 73.

    Kato, Z., Bhattarai, J., Kumagai, N., Izumiya, K. & Hashimoto, K. Durability enhancement and degradation of oxygen evolution anodes in seawater electrolysis for hydrogen production. Appl. Surf. Sci. 257, 8230–8236 (2011).

    Google Scholar 

  74. 74.

    Kato, Z. et al. Electrochemical characterization of degradation of oxygen evolution anode for seawater electrolysis. Electrochim. Acta 116, 152–157 (2014).

    Google Scholar 

  75. 75.

    Kato, Z. et al. The influence of coating solution and calcination condition on the durability of Ir1-xSnxO2/Ti anodes for oxygen evolution. Appl. Surf. Sci. 388, 640–644 (2016).

    Google Scholar 

  76. 76.

    Obata, K. & Takanabe, K. A Permselective CeOx coating to improve the stability of oxygen evolution electrocatalysts. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 57, 1616–1620 (2018).

    Google Scholar 

  77. 77.

    Balaji, R. et al. An alternative approach to selective sea water oxidation for hydrogen production. Electrochem. commun. 11, 1700–1702 (2009).

    MathSciNet  Google Scholar 

  78. 78.

    Lu, X. et al. A sea-change: manganese doped nickel/nickel oxide electrocatalysts for hydrogen generation from seawater. Energy Environ. Sci. 11, 1898–1910 (2018). This study demonstrates a highly active HER catalyst electrode which exhibits Pt-like performances in both neutral electrolytes and natural seawater. The Mn doped NiO/Ni heterostructured electrode was formed by pyrolysing a Mn-MOF/Ni-F precursor in an inert environment.

    Google Scholar 

  79. 79.

    Bard, A. J., Parsons, R. & Jordan, J. Standard Potentials in Aqueous Solution (Routledge, 1985).

  80. 80.

    Nørskov, J. K. et al. Trends in the exchange current for hydrogen evolution. J. Electrochem. Soc. 152, J23 (2005).

    Google Scholar 

  81. 81.

    Zheng, Y., Jiao, Y., Jaroniec, M. & Qiao, S. Z. Advancing the electrochemistry of the hydrogen-evolution reaction through combining experiment and theory. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 54, 52–65 (2015).

    Google Scholar 

  82. 82.

    Dinh, C.-T. et al. Multi-site electrocatalysts for hydrogen evolution in neutral media by destabilization of water molecules. Nat. Energy 4, 107–114 (2019).

    Google Scholar 

  83. 83.

    Song, L. J. & Meng, H. M. Effect of carbon content on Ni-Fe-C electrodes for hydrogen evolution reaction in seawater. Int. J. Hydrog. Energy 35, 10060–10066 (2010).

    Google Scholar 

  84. 84.

    Miao, J. et al. Hierarchical Ni-Mo-S nanosheets on carbon fiber cloth: A flexible electrode for efficient hydrogen generation in neutral electrolyte. Sci. Adv. 1, e1500259 (2015).

    Google Scholar 

  85. 85.

    Schalenbach, M. et al. Gas permeation through nafion. Part 1: measurements. J. Phys. Chem. C. 119, 25145–25155 (2015).

    Google Scholar 

  86. 86.

    Li, H., Tang, Q., He, B. & Yang, P. Robust electrocatalysts from an alloyed Pt-Ru-M (M = Cr, Fe, Co, Ni, Mo)-decorated Ti mesh for hydrogen evolution by seawater splitting. J. Mater. Chem. A 4, 6513–6520 (2016).

    Google Scholar 

  87. 87.

    Golgovici, F. et al. Ni–Mo alloy nanostructures as cathodic materials for hydrogen evolution reaction during seawater electrolysis. Chem. Pap. 72, 1889–1903 (2018).

    Google Scholar 

  88. 88.

    Zhang, Y., Li, P., Yang, X., Fa, W. & Ge, S. High-efficiency and stable alloyed nickel based electrodes for hydrogen evolution by seawater splitting. J. Alloy. Compd. 732, 248–256 (2018).

    Google Scholar 

  89. 89.

    Zheng, J., Zhao, Y., Xi, H. & Li, C. Seawater splitting for hydrogen evolution by robust electrocatalysts from secondary M (M = Cr, Fe, Co, Ni, Mo) incorporated Pt. RSC Adv. 8, 9423–9429 (2018).

    Google Scholar 

  90. 90.

    Raj, I. A. & Vasu, K. I. Transition metal-based hydrogen electrodes in alkaline solution — electrocatalysis on nickel based binary alloy coatings. J. Appl. Electrochem. 20, 32–38 (1990).

    Google Scholar 

  91. 91.

    Esposito, D. V. Membrane-coated electrocatalysts - an alternative approach to achieving stable and tunable electrocatalysis. ACS Catal. 8, 457–465 (2018).

    Google Scholar 

  92. 92.

    Vos, J. G. & Koper, M. T. M. Measurement of competition between oxygen evolution and chlorine evolution using rotating ring-disk electrode voltammetry. J. Electroanal. Chem. 819, 260–268 (2018). This report investigates the selectivity between chlorine evolution and oxygen evolution in aqueous media. Using a new method to quickly study chlorine evolution rates the authors demonstrate that oxygen evolution and chlorine evolution proceed independently on a glassy carbon supported IrOx catalyst.

    Google Scholar 

  93. 93.

    Lindbergh, G. & Simonsson, D. The effect of chromate addition on cathodic reduction of hypochlorite in hydroxide and chlorate solutions. J. Electrochem. Soc. 137, 3094–3099 (2006).

    Google Scholar 

  94. 94.

    Endrődi, B. et al. Towards sustainable chlorate production: The effect of permanganate addition on current efficiency. J. Clean. Prod. 182, 529–537 (2018).

    Google Scholar 

  95. 95.

    Ma, Y. Y. et al. Highly efficient hydrogen evolution from seawater by a low-cost and stable CoMoP@C electrocatalyst superior to Pt/C. Energy Environ. Sci. 10, 788–798 (2017).

  96. 96.

    Kim, K., Kim, H., Lim, J. H. & Lee, S. J. Development of a desalination membrane bioinspired by mangrove roots for spontaneous filtration of sodium ions. ACS Nano 10, 11428–11433 (2016).

    Google Scholar 

  97. 97.

    Kumar, A., Phillips, K. R., Thiel, G. P., Schröder, U. & Lienhard, J. H. Direct electrosynthesis of sodium hydroxide and hydrochloric acid from brine streams. Nat. Catal. 2, 106–113 (2019).

    Google Scholar 

  98. 98.

    Schiermeier, Q., Tollefson, J., Scully, T., Witze, A. & Morton, O. Energy alternatives: electricity without carbon. Nature 454, 816–823 (2008).

    Google Scholar 

  99. 99.

    Gao, S. et al. Electrocatalytic H2 production from seawater over Co, N-codoped nanocarbons. Nanoscale 7, 2306–2316 (2015).

    Google Scholar 

  100. 100.

    Ma, Y. Y. et al. Highly efficient hydrogen evolution from seawater by a low-cost and stable CoMoP@C electrocatalyst superior to Pt/C. Energy Environ. Sci. 10, 788–798 (2017).

    Google Scholar 

  101. 101.

    Zhao, Y., Tang, Q., He, B. & Yang, P. Carbide decorated carbon nanotube electrocatalyst for high-efficiency hydrogen evolution from seawater. RSC Adv. 6, 93267–93274 (2016).

    Google Scholar 

  102. 102.

    Jin, H. et al. Single-crystal nitrogen-rich two-dimensional Mo5N6 nanosheets for efficient and stable seawater splitting. ACS Nano 12, 12761–12769 (2018).

    Google Scholar 

  103. 103.

    Sun, Y. et al. Electrodeposited cobalt-sulfide catalyst for electrochemical and photoelectrochemical hydrogen generation from water. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 135, 17699–17702 (2013).

    Google Scholar 

  104. 104.

    Zhao, Y., Jin, B., Vasileff, A., Jiao, Y. & Qiao, S. Interfacial nickel nitride/sulfide as a bifunctional electrode for highly efficient overall water/seawater electrolysis. J. Mater. Chem. A 7, 8117–8121 (2019). This study describes a bifunctional NiNS electrocatalyst for overall water splitting near neutral pH and in seawater.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

W.T., M.F., R.S.E., A.J.C. and P.F. acknowledge financial support from INTERREG Atlantic Area programme (Grant reference EAPA_190_2016). P.F. acknowledges support from Royal Society Alumni programme. F.D., S.D. and P.S. gratefully acknowledge financial support by the German Research Foundation (DFG) through Grant reference number STR 596/8-1 and the federal ministry for economic affairs and energy (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie, BMWi) under grant number 03EIV041F. P.S. acknowledges partial funding by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) under Germany´s Excellence Strategy – EXC 2008/1 – 390540038 (zum Teil gefördert durch die Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) im Rahmen der Exzellenzstrategie des Bundes und der Länder – EXC 2008/1 – 390540038).

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Peter Strasser or Alexander J. Cowan or Pau Farràs.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Tong, W., Forster, M., Dionigi, F. et al. Electrolysis of low-grade and saline surface water. Nat Energy 5, 367–377 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-020-0550-8

Download citation

Further reading

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing