Ball-milled Si powder for the production of H2 from water for fuel cell applications

Lang Xu, Sobia Ashraf, Jingping Hu, Peter P. Edwards, Martin O. Jones, Emina Hadzifejzovic, John S. Foord*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The development of a safe technique for the supply of hydrogen to small portable fuel cells has emerged as a significant barrier to their deployment in recent years, with solutions centering on the use of hydrogen absorption materials, or the generation of hydrogen through chemical reaction. In the present work we demonstrate that the ball-milling of Si under inert conditions in the presence of KOH and sucrose results in the formation of a fine Si-based powder which reacts spontaneously with water at ambient starting temperature to evolve hydrogen rapidly at high yield. Embedded KOH is capable of accelerating the hydrolysis reaction of silicon by the self-heating effect attributed to dissolution heat of KOH, obviating the need for external heating to initiate the reaction; it also reduces the sensitivity of the reaction to oxide contamination of the Si surface by enabling its dissolution in the form of soluble silicates. Moreover, the silicon–water reaction can be switched on and off by adjusting the ambient temperature. It is shown that ball-milled, KOH-embedded Si powder is able to react with different water sources, such as tap water, river water, and salt water, to produce H2 under aerobic conditions. The method represents a cheap scalable approach for the safe provision of hydrogen fuel to small fuel cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12730-12737
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Hydrogen Energy
Issue number30
Early online date9 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2016


  • Ball milling
  • Hydrogen fuel cell
  • Silicon
  • Silicon–water reaction


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