UTSA Faculty to Collaborate on $650k NSF Research Grant to Discover Cost-Effective Method for Hydrogen Production

Fang Xu

Fang Xu, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry, is serving as the co-principal investigator on a proposal aimed to more efficiently generate hydrogen from methanol, a renewable feedstock. The project recently received a three year, $650k grant from the National Science Foundation.

Hydrogen is mainly produced from fossil resources through the catalytic reforming of hydrocarbons at high temperatures. Catalytic reforming is a chemical process that yields significant amounts of hydrogen. Hydrogen is a clean fuel that can be used in fuel cells to produce electricity and heat and is primarily used in petroleum refining and fertilizer production.

Xu joins Shyam Kattel, principal investigator and assistant professor in the Department of Physics at Florida A&M University (FAMU) on this project, entitled, "Transition metal carbides and nitrides supported single-atom catalysts for aqueous-phase methanol reforming."

"This combined theoretical and experimental work provides deeper insight into the activity and stability of single-atom catalysts at the atomic level necessary for the bottom-up design of effective reforming catalyst," said Kattel.

Additionally, the project will aim to establish a multidisciplinary research program that provides research and education opportunities for underrepresented African American students in the area of computational sciences at FAMU, a historically black college and university.

The proposal will utilize Kattel’s theoretical calculations and Xu’s experiments on model catalyst surfaces to produce results that could one day revolutionize the method for generating hydrogen via methanol. Specifically, Xu will study the transition of metal carbides and nitrides and examine how they could be used to support single-atom catalysts for aqueous phase methanol reforming. Single-atom catalysts are the type of catalysts that the active components are presented as one single atom or a few atom clusters. The nanoscale materials are believed to achieve better catalytic performance and offer maximized material efficiency.

"Our research is fundamental, but the insight gained could be used to identify a novel single atom catalyst with strong stability and performance for hydrogen generation from methanol," said Xu. "It holds the potential, through more applied research in the future, to make the current hydrogen generation method easier and more cost-effective."

Learn more about the UTSA College of Sciences.
Explore the UTSA Department of Chemistry.
Check out the Xu Lab.