Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > ORNL Microscopy Generates New View of Fuel Cells

ORNL

A new ORNL microscopy technique allows researchers to study key reactions in fuel cells at an unprecedented scale. The overlay shows electrochemical activity of platinum (Pt) nanoparticles on an yttria-stabilized zirconia (YSZ) surface, revealing enhanced activity along the triple-phase boundaries (TPB).
ORNL

A new ORNL microscopy technique allows researchers to study key reactions in fuel cells at an unprecedented scale. The overlay shows electrochemical activity of platinum (Pt) nanoparticles on an yttria-stabilized zirconia (YSZ) surface, revealing enhanced activity along the triple-phase boundaries (TPB).

Abstract:
A novel microscopy method at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory is helping scientists probe the reactions that limit widespread deployment of fuel cell technologies.

ORNL Microscopy Generates New View of Fuel Cells

Oak Ridge, TN | Posted on August 15th, 2011

ORNL researchers applied a technique called electrochemical strain microscopy that enables them to examine the dynamics of oxygen reduction/evolution reactions in fuel cell materials, which may reveal ways to redesign or cut the costs of the energy devices. The team's findings were published in Nature Chemistry.

"If we can find a way to understand the operation of the fuel cell on the basic elementary level and determine what will make it work in the most optimum fashion, it would create an entirely new window of opportunity for the development of better materials and devices," said co-author Amit Kumar, a research scientist at ORNL's Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences.

Although fuel cells have long been touted as a highly efficient way to convert chemical energy into electrical energy, their high cost -- in large part due to the use of platinum as a catalyst -- has constrained commercial production and consumption.

Large amounts of platinum are used to catalyze the fuel cell's key reaction -- -the oxygen-reduction reaction, which controls the efficiency and longevity of the cell. Yet exactly how and where the reaction takes place had not been probed because existing device-level electrochemical techniques are ill suited to study the reaction at the nanoscale. ORNL co-author Sergei Kalinin explains that certain methods like electron microscopy had failed to capture the dynamics of fuel cell operation because their resolution was effectively too high.

"When you want to understand how a fuel cell works, you are not interested in where single atoms are, you're interested in how they move in nanometer scale volumes," Kalinin said. "The mobile ions in these solids behave almost like a liquid. They don't stay in place. The faster these mobile ions move, the better the material is for a fuel cell application. Electrochemical strain microscopy is able to image this ion mobility."

Other electrochemical techniques are unable to study oxygen-reduction reactions because they are limited to resolutions of 10's of microns - 10,000 times larger than a nanometer.

"If the reaction is controlled by microstructure features that are much finer than a micron, let's say grain boundaries or single extended defects that are affecting the reaction, then you will never be able to catch what is giving rise to reduced or enhanced functionality of the fuel cell," said ORNL's Stephen Jesse, builder of the ESM microscope. "You would like to do this probing on a scale where you can identify each of these defects and correlate the functionality of the cell with these defects."

Although this study mainly focuses on the introduction of a technique, researchers explain their approach as a much-needed bridge between a theoretical and applied understanding of fuel cells.

"There is a huge gap between fundamental science and applied science for energy-related devices like fuel cells and batteries," Kalinin said. "The semiconducting industry, for example, is developing exponentially because the link between application and basic science is very well established. This is not the case in energy systems. They are usually much more complicated than semiconductors and therefore a lot of development is driven by trial and error type of work."

Co-authors on the study are University of Heidelberg's Francesco Ciucci and Anna Morozovska from the National Academy of Science of Ukraine, whose theoretical analysis was critical in explaining the ESM measurements.

This research was conducted at the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences at ORNL. CNMS is one of the five DOE Nanoscale Science Research Centers supported by the DOE Office of Science, premier national user facilities for interdisciplinary research at the nanoscale. Together the NSRCs comprise a suite of complementary facilities that provide researchers with state-of-the-art capabilities to fabricate, process, characterize and model nanoscale materials, and constitute the largest infrastructure investment of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The NSRCs are located at DOE's Argonne, Brookhaven, Lawrence Berkeley, Oak Ridge and Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories. For more information about the DOE NSRCs, please visit science.energy.gov/bes/suf/user-facilities/nanoscale-science-research-centers/.

ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy's Office of Science.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Morgan McCorkle
Communications and Media Relations
(865) 574-7308

Copyright © Oak Ridge National 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

Imaging

Collaboration yields discovery of 12-sided silica cages June 20th, 2018

JPK talks with Dr Frank Lafont, Director of the BioImaging Center Lille (BICeL) about the use of the NanoWizardŽ AFM together with fluorescence microscopy in the study of living cells June 19th, 2018

Powering the 21st Century with Integrated Photonics: UCSB-Led Team Selected for Demonstration of a Novel Waveguide Platform Which is Transparent Throughout the MWIR and LWIR Spectral Bands June 19th, 2018

New optical sensor can determine if molecules are left or right 'handed' June 13th, 2018

News and information

Collaboration yields discovery of 12-sided silica cages June 20th, 2018

JPK talks with Dr Frank Lafont, Director of the BioImaging Center Lille (BICeL) about the use of the NanoWizardŽ AFM together with fluorescence microscopy in the study of living cells June 19th, 2018

Carbon nanotube optics poised to provide pathway to optical-based quantum cryptography and quantum computing: Researchers are exploring enhanced potential of carbon nanotubes for unique applications June 18th, 2018

Laboratories

Carbon nanotube optics poised to provide pathway to optical-based quantum cryptography and quantum computing: Researchers are exploring enhanced potential of carbon nanotubes for unique applications June 18th, 2018

Tripling the Energy Storage of Lithium-Ion Batteries: Scientists have synthesized a new cathode material from iron fluoride that surpasses the capacity limits of traditional lithium-ion batteries June 14th, 2018

Building nanomaterials for next-generation computing: Scientists recently developed a blueprint to fabricate new nanoheterostructures using 2D materials June 1st, 2018

From Face Recognition to Phase Recognition: Neural Network Captures Atomic-Scale Rearrangements: Scientists use approach analogous to facial-recognition technology to track atomic-scale rearrangements relevant to phase changes, catalytic reactions, and more May 31st, 2018

Chemistry

Quantum Interference May Be Key to Smaller Insulators: Breakthrough could jumpstart further miniaturization of transistors June 6th, 2018

Density gradient ultracentrifugation for colloidal nanostructures separation and investigation June 5th, 2018

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Collaboration yields discovery of 12-sided silica cages June 20th, 2018

Powering the 21st Century with Integrated Photonics: UCSB-Led Team Selected for Demonstration of a Novel Waveguide Platform Which is Transparent Throughout the MWIR and LWIR Spectral Bands June 19th, 2018

Carbon nanotube optics poised to provide pathway to optical-based quantum cryptography and quantum computing: Researchers are exploring enhanced potential of carbon nanotubes for unique applications June 18th, 2018

Camouflaged nanoparticles used to deliver killer protein to cancer June 17th, 2018

Discoveries

Collaboration yields discovery of 12-sided silica cages June 20th, 2018

Carbon nanotube optics poised to provide pathway to optical-based quantum cryptography and quantum computing: Researchers are exploring enhanced potential of carbon nanotubes for unique applications June 18th, 2018

Camouflaged nanoparticles used to deliver killer protein to cancer June 17th, 2018

Squeezing light at the nanoscale: Ultra-confined light could detect harmful molecules June 17th, 2018

Announcements

Collaboration yields discovery of 12-sided silica cages June 20th, 2018

JPK talks with Dr Frank Lafont, Director of the BioImaging Center Lille (BICeL) about the use of the NanoWizardŽ AFM together with fluorescence microscopy in the study of living cells June 19th, 2018

Powering the 21st Century with Integrated Photonics: UCSB-Led Team Selected for Demonstration of a Novel Waveguide Platform Which is Transparent Throughout the MWIR and LWIR Spectral Bands June 19th, 2018

Executives Explore Key Megatrends and Innovations in MEMS, Sensors, Imaging Tech at SEMI-MSIG European Summits: Speakers to share developments in smart automotive, smart cities, smart industrial, biomedical, consumer and IoT, September 19-21, 2018 in Grenoble, France June 19th, 2018

Tools

Collaboration yields discovery of 12-sided silica cages June 20th, 2018

JPK talks with Dr Frank Lafont, Director of the BioImaging Center Lille (BICeL) about the use of the NanoWizardŽ AFM together with fluorescence microscopy in the study of living cells June 19th, 2018

Executives Explore Key Megatrends and Innovations in MEMS, Sensors, Imaging Tech at SEMI-MSIG European Summits: Speakers to share developments in smart automotive, smart cities, smart industrial, biomedical, consumer and IoT, September 19-21, 2018 in Grenoble, France June 19th, 2018

Nanometrics Updates Time of Webcast at Stifel 2018 Cross Sector Insight Conference June 12th, 2018

Energy

Physicists devise method to reveal how light affects materials: The new method adds to the understanding of the fundamental laws governing the interaction of electrons and light June 15th, 2018

Tripling the Energy Storage of Lithium-Ion Batteries: Scientists have synthesized a new cathode material from iron fluoride that surpasses the capacity limits of traditional lithium-ion batteries June 14th, 2018

Remote control of transport through nanopores: New study outlines key factors affecting the transfer of molecules through biological channels May 24th, 2018

Team achieves two-electron chemical reactions using light energy, gold May 15th, 2018

Fuel Cells

Harvesting clean hydrogen fuel through artificial photosynthesis May 3rd, 2018

A new way to find better battery materials: Design principles could point to better electrolytes for next-generation lithium batteries March 29th, 2018

Rice sleuths find metal in 'metal-free' catalysts: Study of graphene catalysts finds trace of manganese, suggests better ultrathin fuel-cell components February 26th, 2018

Study boosts hope for cheaper fuel cells: Rice University researchers show how to optimize nanomaterials for fuel-cell cathodes January 6th, 2018

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



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project