Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors


Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > 'Tunable' metal nanostructures for fuel cells, batteries and solar energy

Wiesner Lab
Samples of self-assembled metal-containing films made by the new sol-gel process. The films are essentially glass in which metal atoms are suspended, which imparts the color., Grid lines are 5 mm apart.
Wiesner Lab

Samples of self-assembled metal-containing films made by the new sol-gel process. The films are essentially glass in which metal atoms are suspended, which imparts the color., Grid lines are 5 mm apart.

Abstract:
For catalysts in fuel cells and electrodes in batteries, engineers would like to manufacture metal films that are porous, to make more surface area available for chemical reactions, and highly conductive, to carry off the electricity. The latter has been a frustrating challenge.

'Tunable' metal nanostructures for fuel cells, batteries and solar energy

Ithaca, NY | Posted on April 2nd, 2012

But Cornell chemists have now developed a way to make porous metal films with up to 1,000 times the electrical conductivity offered by previous methods. Their technique also opens the door to creating a wide variety of metal nanostructures for engineering and biomedical applications, the researchers said.

The results of several years of experimentation are described March 18 online edition of the journal Nature Materials.

"We have reached unprecedented levels of control on composition, nanostructure and functionality -- for example, conductivity -- of the resulting materials, all with a simple 'one-pot' mix-and-heat approach," said senior author Ulrich Wiesner, the Spencer T. Olin Professor of Engineering.

The new method builds on the "sol-gel process," already familiar to chemists. Certain compounds of silicon mixed with solvents will self-assemble into a structure of silicon dioxide (i.e., glass) honeycombed with nanometer-scaled pores. The challenge facing the researchers was to add metal to create a porous structure that conducts electricity.

About 10 years ago, Wiesner's research group, collaborating with the Cornell Fuel Cell Institute, tried using the sol-gel process with the catalysts that pull protons off of fuel molecules to generate electricity. They needed materials that would pass high current, but adding more than a small amount of metal disrupted the sol-gel process, explained Scott Warren, first author of the Nature Materials paper.

Warren, who was then a Ph.D. student in Wiesner's group and is now a researcher at Northwestern University, hit on the idea of using an amino acid to link metal atoms to silica molecules, because he had realized that one end of the amino acid molecule has an affinity for silica and the other end for metals.

"If there was a way to directly attach the metal to the silica sol-gel precursor then we would prevent this phase separation that was disrupting the self-assembly process," he explained.

The immediate result is a nanostructure of metal, silica and carbon, with much more metal than had been possible before, greatly increasing conductivity. The silica and carbon can be removed, leaving porous metal. But a silica-metal structure would hold its shape at the high temperatures found in some fuel cells, Warren noted, and removing just the silica to leave a carbon-metal complex offers other possibilities, including larger pores.

The researchers report a wide range of experiments showing that their process can be used to make "a library of materials with a high degree of control over composition and structure." They have built structures of almost every metal in the periodic table, and with additional chemistry can "tune" the dimensions of the pores in a range from 10 to 500 nanometers. They have also made metal-filled silica nanoparticles small enough to be ingested and secreted by humans, with possible biomedical applications. Wiesner's group is also known for creating "Cornell dots," which encapsulate dyes in silica nanoparticles, so a possible future application of the sol-gel process might be to build Graetzel solar cells, which contain light-sensitive dyes. Michael Graetzel of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and innovator of the Graetzel cell is a co-author of the new paper. The measurement of the record-setting electrical conductivity was performed in his laboratory.

The research has been supported by the Department of Energy and, through several channels, the National Science Foundation.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Bill Steele

Copyright © Cornell 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

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

Stretchy supercapacitors power wearable electronics August 25th, 2016

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

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

Self Assembly

Smarter self-assembly opens new pathways for nanotechnology: Brookhaven Lab scientists discover a way to create billionth-of-a-meter structures that snap together in complex patterns with unprecedented efficiency August 9th, 2016

Magnetic atoms arranged in neat rows: FAU physicists enable one-dimensional atom chains to grow August 5th, 2016

Accurate design of large icosahedral protein nanocages pushes bioengineering boundaries: Scientists used computational methods to build ten large, two-component, co-assembling icosahedral protein complexes the size of small virus coats July 25th, 2016

WSU researchers develop shape-changing 'smart' material: Heat, light stimulate self-assembly July 4th, 2016

Discoveries

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

Stretchy supercapacitors power wearable electronics 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

Announcements

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

Silicon nanoparticles trained to juggle light: Research findings prove the capabilities of silicon nanoparticles for flexible data processing in optical communication systems 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

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

Battery Technology/Capacitors/Generators/Piezoelectrics/Thermoelectrics/Energy storage

Stretchy supercapacitors power wearable electronics August 25th, 2016

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

Lithium-ion batteries: Capacity might be increased by 6 times August 9th, 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

Solar/Photovoltaic

Let's roll: Material for polymer solar cells may lend itself to large-area processing: 'Sweet spot' for mass-producing polymer solar cells may be far larger than dictated by the conventional wisdom August 12th, 2016

NREL technique leads to improved perovskite solar cells August 11th, 2016

Making a solar energy conversion breakthrough with help from a ferroelectrics pioneer: Philadelphia-based team shows how a ferroelectric insulator can surpass shockley-queisser limit August 9th, 2016

Tiny high-performance solar cells turn power generation sideways August 5th, 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