Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Bringing down the cost of fuel cells: New catalyst dramatically cheaper without sacrificing performance

Zhen (Jason) He, assistant professor of civil engineering (left), and Junhong Chen, professor of mechanical engineering, display a strip of carbon that contains the novel nanorod catalyst material they developed for microbial fuel cells.

Credit: Troye Fox
Zhen (Jason) He, assistant professor of civil engineering (left), and Junhong Chen, professor of mechanical engineering, display a strip of carbon that contains the novel nanorod catalyst material they developed for microbial fuel cells.

Credit: Troye Fox

Abstract:
Engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) have identified a catalyst that provides the same level of efficiency in microbial fuel cells (MFCs) as the currently used platinum catalyst, but at 5% of the cost.

Bringing down the cost of fuel cells: New catalyst dramatically cheaper without sacrificing performance

Milwaukee, WI | Posted on June 25th, 2012

Since more than 60% of the investment in making microbial fuel cells is the cost of platinum, the discovery may lead to much more affordable energy conversion and storage devices.

The material - nitrogen-enriched iron-carbon nanorods - also has the potential to replace the platinum catalyst used in hydrogen-producing microbial electrolysis cells (MECs), which use organic matter to generate a possible alternative to fossil fuels.

"Fuel cells are capable of directly converting fuel into electricity," says UWM Professor Junhong Chen, who created the nanorods and is testing them with Assistant Professor Zhen (Jason) He. "With fuel cells, electrical power from renewable energy sources can be delivered where and when required, cleanly, efficiently and sustainably."

The scientists also found that the nanorod catalyst outperformed a graphene-based alternative being developed elsewhere. In fact, the pair tested the material against two other contenders to replace platinum and found the nanorods' performance consistently superior over a six-month period.

The nanorods have been proved stable and are scalable, says Chen, but more investigation is needed to determine how easily they can be mass-produced. More study is also required to determine the exact interaction responsible for the nanorods' performance.

The work was published in March in the journal Advanced Materials ("Nitrogen-Enriched Core-Shell Structured Fe/Fe3C-C Nanorods as Advanced Catalysts for Oxygen Reduction Reaction").

The right recipe

MFCs generate electricity while removing organic contaminants from wastewater. On the anode electrode of an MFC, colonies of bacteria feed on organic matter, releasing electrons that create a current as they break down the waste.

On the cathode side, the most important reaction in MFCs is the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR). Platinum speeds this slow reaction, increasing efficiency of the cell, but it is expensive.

Microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) are related to MFCs. However, instead of electricity, MECs produce hydrogen. In addition to harnessing microorganisms at the anode, MECS also use decomposition of organic matter and platinum in a catalytic process at their cathodes.

Chen and He's nanorods incorporate the best characteristics of other reactive materials, with nitrogen attached to the surface of the carbon rod and a core of iron carbide. Nitrogen's effectiveness at improving the carbon catalyst is already well known. Iron carbide, also known for its catalytic capabilities, interacts with the carbon on the rod surface, providing "communication" with the core. Also, the material's unique structure is optimal for electron transport, which is necessary for ORR.

When the nanorods were tested for potential use in MECs, the material did a better job than the graphene-based catalyst material, but it was still not as efficient as platinum.

"But it shows that there could be more diverse applications for this material, compared to graphene," says He. "And it gave us clues for why the nanorods performed differently in MECs."

Research with MECs was published in June in the journal Nano Energy ("Carbon/Iron-based Nanorod Catalysts for Hydrogen Production in Microbial Electrolysis Cells").

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Jason He

414-229-5846

Copyright © University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee

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

Bosch announces high-performance MEMS acceleration sensors for wearables June 27th, 2017

Nanometrics to Participate in the 9th Annual CEO Investor Summit 2017: Accredited investor and publishing research analyst event held concurrently with SEMICON West and Intersolar 2017 in San Francisco June 27th, 2017

NMRC, University of Nottingham chooses the Quorum Q150 coater for its reliable and reproducible film thickness when coating samples with iridium June 27th, 2017

Picosunís ALD solutions enable novel high-speed memories June 27th, 2017

Graphene/ Graphite

Rice U. chemists create 3-D printed graphene foam June 22nd, 2017

Thought Leaders and Experts Join National Graphene Association Advisory Board June 16th, 2017

Chemistry

Enhanced photocatalytic activity by Cu2O nanoparticles integrated H2Ti3O7 nanotubes June 21st, 2017

New carbon nitride material coupled with ruthenium enhances visible-light CO2 reduction in water June 15th, 2017

Learning with light: New system allows optical ďdeep learningĒ: Neural networks could be implemented more quickly using new photonic technology June 12th, 2017

Discoveries

Physicists make quantum leap in understanding life's nanoscale machinery June 27th, 2017

Picosunís ALD solutions enable novel high-speed memories June 27th, 2017

Atomic imperfections move quantum communication network closer to reality June 25th, 2017

Research accelerates quest for quicker, longer-lasting electronics: UC Riverside-led research makes topological insulators magnetic well above room temperatures June 25th, 2017

Announcements

Bosch announces high-performance MEMS acceleration sensors for wearables June 27th, 2017

Nanometrics to Participate in the 9th Annual CEO Investor Summit 2017: Accredited investor and publishing research analyst event held concurrently with SEMICON West and Intersolar 2017 in San Francisco June 27th, 2017

NMRC, University of Nottingham chooses the Quorum Q150 coater for its reliable and reproducible film thickness when coating samples with iridium June 27th, 2017

Picosunís ALD solutions enable novel high-speed memories June 27th, 2017

Energy

Tiny bubbles provide tremendous propulsion in new microparticles research-Ben-Gurion U. June 21st, 2017

Enhanced photocatalytic activity by Cu2O nanoparticles integrated H2Ti3O7 nanotubes June 21st, 2017

Cambridge Nanotherm partners with Inabata for global sales and distribution June 20th, 2017

Development of low-dimensional nanomaterials could revolutionize future technologies June 15th, 2017

Automotive/Transportation

Letiís Autonomous-Vehicle System Embedded in Infineonís AURIX Platform: Letiís Low-Power, Multi-Sensor System that Transforms Distance Data into Clear Information About the Driving Environment Will Be Demonstrated at ITS Meeting in Strasbourg, June 19-22 June 20th, 2017

Development of low-dimensional nanomaterials could revolutionize future technologies June 15th, 2017

GLOBALFOUNDRIES Launches 7nm ASIC Platform for Data Center, Machine Learning, and 5G Networks FX-7TM offering leverages the companyís 7nm: FinFET process to deliver best in class IP and Solutions June 13th, 2017

Leti Announces Two New Tools for Improving Transportation Comfort, Safety and Efficiency: Wearable Device Measures Stress Responses for Travelers, Pilots and Truck Drivers, While Smartphone App Provides Transit Agencies Broad Data on Transport Modes June 13th, 2017

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

Rice U. chemists create 3-D printed graphene foam June 22nd, 2017

Smart materials used in ultrasound behave similar to water, Penn chemists report June 16th, 2017

X-ray Study Reveals Way to Control Molecular Vibrations that Transmit Heat: Findings open new pathway for "tuning" materials to ease or insulate against the flow of heat, sound, and other forms of energy June 7th, 2017

Graphene-nanotube hybrid boosts lithium metal batteries: Rice University prototypes store 3 times the energy of lithium-ion batteries May 19th, 2017

Fuel Cells

Electrocatalyst nanostructures key to improved fuel cells, electrolyzers June 5th, 2017

Stanford scientists use nanotechnology to boost the performance of key industrial catalyst May 18th, 2017

MIT Energy Initiative awards 10 seed fund grants for early-stage energy research May 4th, 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

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