Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Fuel Cells Get Up to Speed with a New Kind of Platinum

Researchers including Hirohito Ogasawara (left), Anders Nilsson (center), and Mike Toney (right) used SSRL's bright X-ray beam to study a new form of platinum that could be used to make cheaper, more efficient fuel cells. (Photo courtesy Kelen Tuttle)
Researchers including Hirohito Ogasawara (left), Anders Nilsson (center), and Mike Toney (right) used SSRL's bright X-ray beam to study a new form of platinum that could be used to make cheaper, more efficient fuel cells. (Photo courtesy Kelen Tuttle)

Abstract:
A new form of platinum that could be used to make cheaper, more efficient fuel cells has been created by researchers at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the University of Houston. The process, described in the April 25th issue of Nature Chemistry, could help enable broader use of the devices, which produce emissions-free energy using hydrogen.

Fuel Cells Get Up to Speed with a New Kind of Platinum

Menlo Park | Posted on April 28th, 2010

"This is a significant advance," said scientist Anders Nilsson, who conducts research at the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences, a joint institute between SLAC and Stanford University. "Fuel cells were invented more than 100 years ago. They haven't made a leap over to being a big technology yet, in part because of this difficulty with platinum."

Fuel cells hold significant promise for clean energy because the cell's only byproduct is water. But current fuel cell designs can require as much as 100 grams of platinum, pushing their price tags into the thousands of dollars. By tweaking platinum's reactivity, the researchers were able to curtail the amount of platinum required by 80 percent, and hope to soon reduce it by another 10 percent, greatly trimming away at the overall cost.

"I think with a factor of ten, we'll have a home run," Nilsson added.

Fuel cells work much like batteries—an anode provides electrons and a cathode collects them on the other end of an electrical circuit. But unlike batteries, fuel cells use hydrogen and oxygen to drive their energy-producing reactions; when oxygen enters the metal cathode, it is broken down into individual atoms before it forms water with hydrogen.

The choice of metal for the cathode is extremely important, as some metals cannot break apart the oxygen atoms while others try to bind too strongly to the oxygen atoms, taking them away from the key reaction. Scientists seek the perfect "balance point," where the number of oxygen bonds broken is maximized and the oxygen atoms bind more weakly to the catalyst. They achieved the balance with platinum, which is strong enough to break the oxygen bonds but does not bind to the free oxygen atoms too strongly. Unfortunately, it also costs enough to make platinum-electrode fuel cells untenably expensive.

In 2005, University of Houston researcher Peter Strasser started looking for ways to crack the platinum problem not by replacing platinum outright, as other researchers sought to do, but by making platinum more reactive.

To do this, Strasser and colleagues used a process called dealloying. First, they combined platinum with varying amounts of copper to create a copper-platinum alloy. Then they removed the copper from the surface region of the alloy. When they tested the binding properties of the dealloyed platinum-copper catalyst, they found it was much more reactive than it would be otherwise.

To find out why, Strasser, Nilsson and colleagues Mike Toney and Hirohito Ogasawara put dealloyed samples under the extremely bright X-ray beam at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource. By studying how X-rays scattered from the dealloyed samples, they were able to create detailed pictures of the metal's internal structure, revealing that the increased reactivity was caused by lattice strain—a phenomenon in which the arrangement of platinum atoms is modified. By compressing the surface platinum atoms closer together, the process causes platinum atoms to bind a little more weakly to oxygen atoms and inch closer to that magical balance point between molecule dissociation and catalytic binding.

"The distance between two neighboring atoms affects their electronic structure," Strasser said. "By changing the interatomic distance, we can manipulate how strongly they form bonds."

The next step for the researchers will be to use the SSRL beam to get a closer look at the reactions between oxygen and platinum, and to determine what can be done to make the process even more efficient. The ultimate goal is to create a potential replacement not only for gasoline engines but also for the batteries found in small electronic devices.

The majority of this research is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science through its programs at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource and the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University. Collaborating institutions also include Argonne National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Technical University Berlin and the University of Houston.

####

About SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
SLAC is a multi-program laboratory exploring frontier questions in photon science, astrophysics, particle physics and accelerator research. Located in Menlo Park, California, SLAC is operated by Stanford University for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science. The Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource at SLAC is a national user facility which provides synchrotron radiation for research in chemistry, biology, physics and materials science to over two thousand users each year.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Melinda Lee
SLAC Media Manager
1 (650) 926-8547


Robert Brown
SLAC Director of Communications
1 (650) 926-8707

Copyright © SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

University of Akron researchers find thin layers of water can become ice-like at room temperature: Results could lead to an assortment of anti-friction solutions August 30th, 2016

Nanocatalysis for organic chemistry: This research article by Dr. Qien Xu et al. is published in Current Organic Chemistry, Volume 20, Issue 19, 2016 August 30th, 2016

Continuous roll-process technology for transferring and packaging flexible LSI August 29th, 2016

Meteorite impact on a nano scale August 29th, 2016

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Analog DNA circuit does math in a test tube: DNA computers could one day be programmed to diagnose and treat disease August 25th, 2016

New approach to determining how atoms are arranged in materials August 25th, 2016

Johns Hopkins scientists track metabolic pathways to find drug combination for pancreatic cancer August 25th, 2016

New electrical energy storage material shows its power: Nanomaterial combines attributes of both batteries and supercapacitors August 25th, 2016

Possible Futures

Nanocatalysis for organic chemistry: This research article by Dr. Qien Xu et al. is published in Current Organic Chemistry, Volume 20, Issue 19, 2016 August 30th, 2016

Continuous roll-process technology for transferring and packaging flexible LSI August 29th, 2016

Designing ultrasound tools with Lego-like proteins August 29th, 2016

A nanoscale wireless communication system via plasmonic antennas: Greater control affords 'in-plane' transmission of waves at or near visible light August 27th, 2016

Academic/Education

AIM Photonics Announces Release of Process Design Kit (PDK) for Integrated Silicon Photonics Design August 25th, 2016

Nanotech Security Featured by Simon Fraser University: Company's Anti-Counterfeiting Technology Developed With the Help of University's 4D LABS Materials Research Institute August 21st, 2016

W.M. Keck Foundation awards Cal State LA a $375,000 research and education grant August 4th, 2016

Thomas Swan and NGI announce unique partnership July 28th, 2016

Materials/Metamaterials

A promising route to the scalable production of highly crystalline graphene films August 26th, 2016

Graphene under pressure August 26th, 2016

Unraveling the crystal structure of a -70° Celsius superconductor, a world first: Significant advancement in the realization of room-temperature superconductors August 25th, 2016

Semblant to Present at China Mobile Manufacturing Forum 2016 August 25th, 2016

Announcements

University of Akron researchers find thin layers of water can become ice-like at room temperature: Results could lead to an assortment of anti-friction solutions August 30th, 2016

Nanocatalysis for organic chemistry: This research article by Dr. Qien Xu et al. is published in Current Organic Chemistry, Volume 20, Issue 19, 2016 August 30th, 2016

Continuous roll-process technology for transferring and packaging flexible LSI August 29th, 2016

Meteorite impact on a nano scale August 29th, 2016

Energy

New electrical energy storage material shows its power: Nanomaterial combines attributes of both batteries and supercapacitors August 25th, 2016

Lehigh engineer discovers a high-speed nano-avalanche: New findings published in the Journal of Electrochemical Society about the process involving transformations in glass that occur under intense electrical and thermal conditions could lead the way to more energy-efficient glas August 24th, 2016

New flexible material can make any window 'smart' August 23rd, 2016

Researchers reduce expensive noble metals for fuel cell reactions August 22nd, 2016

Fuel Cells

Researchers reduce expensive noble metals for fuel cell reactions August 22nd, 2016

W.M. Keck Foundation awards Cal State LA a $375,000 research and education grant August 4th, 2016

Proton pinball on the catalyst: Moisture helps catalyst in fuel cells August 3rd, 2016

New nontoxic process promises larger ultrathin sheets of 2-D nanomaterials July 27th, 2016

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







Car Brands
Buy website traffic