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

Laboratories

Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods March 25th, 2017

Imaging

Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods March 25th, 2017

Caught on camera -- chemical reactions 'filmed' at the single-molecule level March 22nd, 2017

News and information

Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods March 25th, 2017

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen March 24th, 2017

Promising results obtained with a new electrocatalyst that reduces the need for platinum: Researchers from Aalto University have succeeded in manufacturing electrocatalysts used for storing electric energy with one-hundredth of the amount of platinum that is usually needed March 24th, 2017

Artificial photosynthesis steps into the light: Rice University lab turns transition metals into practical catalyst for solar, other applications March 23rd, 2017

Scientists discover new 'boat' form of promising semiconductor: GeSe Uncommon form attenuates semiconductor's band gap size March 23rd, 2017

Chemistry

Promising results obtained with a new electrocatalyst that reduces the need for platinum: Researchers from Aalto University have succeeded in manufacturing electrocatalysts used for storing electric energy with one-hundredth of the amount of platinum that is usually needed March 24th, 2017

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods March 25th, 2017

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen March 24th, 2017

Nanobiotix: The Independent Data Monitoring Committee Recommends the Continuation of the Ongoing Phase II/III Trial of NBTXR3 in Soft Tissue Sarcoma March 23rd, 2017

Rice U. refines filters for greener natural gas: New study defines best materials for carbon capture, methane selectivity March 23rd, 2017

Discoveries

Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods March 25th, 2017

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen March 24th, 2017

Promising results obtained with a new electrocatalyst that reduces the need for platinum: Researchers from Aalto University have succeeded in manufacturing electrocatalysts used for storing electric energy with one-hundredth of the amount of platinum that is usually needed March 24th, 2017

Artificial photosynthesis steps into the light: Rice University lab turns transition metals into practical catalyst for solar, other applications March 23rd, 2017

Announcements

Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods March 25th, 2017

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen March 24th, 2017

Promising results obtained with a new electrocatalyst that reduces the need for platinum: Researchers from Aalto University have succeeded in manufacturing electrocatalysts used for storing electric energy with one-hundredth of the amount of platinum that is usually needed March 24th, 2017

Artificial photosynthesis steps into the light: Rice University lab turns transition metals into practical catalyst for solar, other applications March 23rd, 2017

Tools

Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods March 25th, 2017

Caught on camera -- chemical reactions 'filmed' at the single-molecule level March 22nd, 2017

CRMGroup in Belgium uses a Deben three point bending stage in the development of new steel & coated steel products for automotive and other industrial applications March 21st, 2017

Next-gen steel under the microscope March 18th, 2017

Energy

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen March 24th, 2017

Rice U. refines filters for greener natural gas: New study defines best materials for carbon capture, methane selectivity March 23rd, 2017

Artificial photosynthesis steps into the light: Rice University lab turns transition metals into practical catalyst for solar, other applications March 23rd, 2017

Researchers develop groundbreaking process for creating ultra-selective separation membranes: Discovery could greatly improve energy-efficiency of separation and purification processes in the chemical and petrochemical industries March 15th, 2017

Fuel Cells

Promising results obtained with a new electrocatalyst that reduces the need for platinum: Researchers from Aalto University have succeeded in manufacturing electrocatalysts used for storing electric energy with one-hundredth of the amount of platinum that is usually needed March 24th, 2017

Scientists boost catalytic activity for key chemical reaction in fuel cells: New platinum-based catalysts with tensile surface strain could improve fuel cell efficiency December 19th, 2016

It's basic: Alternative fuel cell technology reduces cost: Study sets performance targets for metal-free fuel cell membrane December 13th, 2016

Keeping electric car design on the right road: A closer look at the life-cycle impacts of lithium-ion batteries and proton exchange membrane fuel cells December 9th, 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