Low-cost nanostructured electrocatalysts for hydrogen evolution in an anion exchange membrane lignin electrolysis cell

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© The Author(s) 2019. The aim of this study is to quantify the hydrogen production rate in an anion exchange membrane (AEM) lignin electrolysis cell. Two non-precious and nanostructured metal and metal oxide electrocatalysts were developed and used as the anodic catalysts in a lignin electrolysis process. H2 production rates, energy consumption rates and faradaic efficiency were measured using β-PbO2/MWNTs and Ni-Co/TiO2 electrocatalysts as the anode, where electrochemical depolymerization of lignin occurs. Our results were then compared with recent efforts for lignin electrolysis in the literature. This work demonstrates that the β-PbO2/MWNTs nanocomposite is the more stable and active electrocatalyst in this process. At the end, our results showed that using β-PbO2/MWNTs as the anodic electrocatalyst can enhance lignin oxidation rates, with a corresponding increase in the rate of H2 production at the cathode. As a result, this can lead to high hydrogen evolution rates (∼45.6 mL/h), and increase energy efficiency by 20%, compared to a commercial alkaline water electrolyzer.