The future economy based on renewable and sustainable energy sources might utilize battery-powered cars, large-scale solar and wind farms, and energy reserves stored in batteries and chemical fuels. Although there are examples of sustainable energy sources in use already, scientific and engineering breakthroughs will determine the timeline for widespread adoption.

One proposed paradigm for shifting away from fossil fuels is the hydrogen economy, in which hydrogen gas powers society's electrical needs. To mass produce hydrogen gas, some scientists are studying the process of splitting water -- two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom -- which would result in hydrogen fuel and breathable oxygen gas.

Feng Lin, an assistant professor of chemistry in the Virginia Tech College of Science, is focusing on energy storage and conversion research. This work is part of a new study published in the journal Nature Catalysis that solves a key, fundamental barrier in the electrochemical water splitting process where the Lin Lab demonstrates a new technique to reassemble, revivify, and reuse a catalyst that allows for energy-efficient water splitting. Chunguang Kuai, a former graduate student of Lin's, is first author of the study with Lin and co-authors chemistry graduate students Zhengrui Xu, Anyang Hu, and Zhijie Yang.

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