Nanotechnology Now







Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


DHgate

Home > Press > New catalyst could move fuel cell technology closer to mainstream

Balbuena views a model showing the detachment of a platinum atom (grey) from a nanocatalyst surface, driven by the presence of oxygen (red) and acid agents (yellow).
Balbuena views a model showing the detachment of a platinum atom (grey) from a nanocatalyst surface, driven by the presence of oxygen (red) and acid agents (yellow).

Abstract:
Long hampered by high manufacturing costs and durability issues, fuel cell technology could overcome those obstacles and take a significant step towards mainstream adoption thanks to a finding by a Texas A&M University chemical engineering professor.

New catalyst could move fuel cell technology closer to mainstream

College Station, TX | Posted on May 9th, 2010

Investigating the use of alternative materials as catalysts in fuel cells, Perla Balbuena, professor in the university's Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering, has found a class of composite materials that show early indications of being just as effective — and even more durable — than the costly platinum catalysts typically used in fuel cells.

The findings from her work, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), appear in the January edition of the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.

Because of their potential as a clean source of virtually continuous energy, fuel cells are a chief area of interest to a wide variety of entities, including automobile manufacturers and the U.S. government, which has invested nearly a billion dollars in research and development of the technology.

In a basic fuel cell, Balbuena explains, the platinum takes the form of incredibly small but expensive particles that are deposited on an electrode within the fuel cell. The electrode helps to trigger complex chemical reactions that ultimately result in the conversion of oxygen and hydrogen into water and electrical energy.

Previous attempts to find more affordable alternatives for pure platinum catalysts have been unsuccessful, Balbuena says, noting that the nickel and iron-based alloy substitutes used were less durable, dissolving inside the fuel cell at a faster rate than even the traditional platinum catalysts. This dissolution occurs, Balbuena notes, because of an acidic polymeric membrane located next to the catalyst within the fuel cell.

"This membrane, although necessary, creates another problem with regard to the design of the catalyst," Balbuena says. "When nanoparticles of platinum or platinum alloys come into contact with this acid medium they can dissolve. The less ‘noble' the metal, the easier to dissolve, and in that scale, platinum is the most ‘noble' metal. When this happens, the catalyst can be negatively affected, rendering the chemical reaction less efficient.

"This is the issue we are trying to address - trying to understand the reasons behind the dissolution of these metals and the possible solutions for this problem," Balbuena says.

Looking to overcome that problem, Balbuena, an authority on materials and catalytic processes, employed computational chemistry methods to investigate viable catalysts that would show enhanced performance as well as improved durability. In contrast to experimental models, computational chemistry makes use high-performance computers to find numerical solutions of fundamental equations involving interactions among atoms and electrons. These computational results translate into finding out the best materials for the desired task. It's a pivotal first step in a process that saves scientists from costly trial-and-error approaches in the lab.

Through that approach, Balbuena and her research group at Texas A&M were able to demonstrate the potential durability and activity properties of a new "core-shell" composite material that can serve as a catalyst within a fuel cell. The material, she explains, still uses platinum but less of it, meaning it's cheaper. What's more, in its core, the material uses other key elements in a way that ensures the core particles will not segregate to the surface and dissolve in the polymeric membrane.

"In essence, we anchor less-expensive core elements that play a supportive role and let the ultra-thin platinum film on the surface exert its catalytic effect, that is to accelerate the desired reactions," Balbuena explains.

It's a finding with significant implications for the widespread adoption of fuel cell technology. The DOE's Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance estimates fuel cells will need to cost $700 per kilowatt to serve as a viable energy alternative. Current technology, however, costs nearly 10 times that amount per kilowatt.

A more affordable, durable catalyst could help lower the cost of fuel cell production, says Balbuena, who notes the composite material she has found meets a set of standard properties that DOE has set for the durability and makeup of such catalysts.

Having successfully met those criteria, the next step for the composite material, Balbuena says, is actual production and laboratory testing — aspects of the research that she is planning on exploring with potential experimental partners who have taken note of her findings and hope to begin building the new electrode catalysts in the near future.

"It is superb because as a researcher you not only want to contribute basic fundamental knowledge but you also want such knowledge triggering practical applications," Balbuena says. "When you discover something like this it is very exciting because we see that we can convert this study into something practical and useful — bringing fuel cell technology a step closer to realization."

####

About Texas A&M University
This research-intensive flagship university with 10 colleges was recently ranked first in the nation by The Washington Monthly for "tangible contributions to the public interest." U.S. News and World Report ranked Texas A&M third nationally as a "best value" among public universities. Many degree programs are ranked among the top 10 in the country.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Perla Balbuena
(979) 845-3375


Ryan A. Garcia
(979) 845-9237

Copyright © Texas A&M University

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

JPK opens new expanded offices in Berlin to meet the growing demand for products worldwide January 28th, 2015

Researchers Make Magnetic Graphene: UC Riverside research could lead to new multi-functional electronic devices January 27th, 2015

Pittcon News: Renishaw adds to the comprehensive imaging options available with its inVia confocal Raman microscope January 27th, 2015

Nanometrics to Present at the Stifel 2015 Technology, Internet and Media Conference January 27th, 2015

Chemistry

Anti-microbial coatings with a long-term effect for surfaces – presentation at nano tech 2015 in Japan January 21st, 2015

Hydrogels deliver on blood-vessel growth: Rice researchers introduce improved injectable scaffold to promote healing January 20th, 2015

Graphene enables all-electrical control of energy flow from light emitters: First signatures of graphene plasmons at telecommunications wavelength revealed January 20th, 2015

Nanotechnology Used to Produce Ceramic Membrane with High Thermal Stability January 19th, 2015

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Researchers Make Magnetic Graphene: UC Riverside research could lead to new multi-functional electronic devices January 27th, 2015

New pathway to valleytronics January 27th, 2015

Nanoshuttle wear and tear: It's the mileage, not the age January 26th, 2015

Visualizing interacting electrons in a molecule: Scientists at Aalto University and the University of Zurich have succeeded in directly imaging how electrons interact within a single molecule January 26th, 2015

Possible Futures

GS7 Graphene Sensor maybe Solution in Fight Against Cancer January 25th, 2015

Nanotechnology in Energy Applications Market Research Report 2014-2018: Radiant Insights, Inc January 15th, 2015

'Mind the gap' between atomically thin materials December 23rd, 2014

A novel method for identifying the body’s ‘noisiest’ networks November 19th, 2014

Academic/Education

Rice's Naomi Halas to direct Smalley Institute: Optics pioneer will lead Rice's multidisciplinary science institute January 15th, 2015

SUNY Board Appoints Dr. Alain Kaloyeros as Founding President of SUNY Polytechnic Institute January 13th, 2015

CNSE's Smart System Technology & Commercialization Center Successfully Recertifies as ISO 9001:2008 January 12th, 2015

SUNY Poly Now Accepting Applications to the Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering for Fall 2015: Full Scholarships Available to Incoming CNSE Students January 7th, 2015

Announcements

JPK opens new expanded offices in Berlin to meet the growing demand for products worldwide January 28th, 2015

Carbon nanoballs can greatly contribute to sustainable energy supply January 27th, 2015

The laser pulse that gets shorter all by itself: Ultrashort laser pulses have become an indispensable tool for atomic and molecular research; A new technology makes creating short infrared pulses easy and cheap January 27th, 2015

New pathway to valleytronics January 27th, 2015

Energy

Carbon nanoballs can greatly contribute to sustainable energy supply January 27th, 2015

Visualizing interacting electrons in a molecule: Scientists at Aalto University and the University of Zurich have succeeded in directly imaging how electrons interact within a single molecule January 26th, 2015

Iranian Researchers Boost Solar Cells Efficiency Using Anti-Aggregates January 26th, 2015

Engineering self-assembling amyloid fibers January 26th, 2015

Fuel Cells

New concept of fuel cell for efficiency and environment: It grasps both performance efficiency and removal of toxic heavy metal ions in direct methanol fuel cells January 5th, 2015

Toward a low-cost 'artificial leaf' that produces clean hydrogen fuel December 3rd, 2014

Single-atom gold catalysts may offer path to low-cost production of fuel and chemicals November 28th, 2014

National Synchrotron Light Source II Achieves 'First Light' October 23rd, 2014

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







© Copyright 1999-2015 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE