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

Pixel-array quantum cascade detector paves the way for portable thermal imaging devices: Research team from TU-Wien Center for Micro- and Nanostructures have developed a new 'cooler' sensing instrument thereby increasing energy-efficiency and enhancing mobility for diagnostic tes July 28th, 2016

Dirty to drinkable: Engineers develop novel hybrid nanomaterials to transform water July 28th, 2016

Thomas Swan and NGI announce unique partnership July 28th, 2016

Graphene/ Graphite

Dirty to drinkable: Engineers develop novel hybrid nanomaterials to transform water July 28th, 2016

Thomas Swan and NGI announce unique partnership July 28th, 2016

Ultrasensitive sensor using N-doped graphene July 26th, 2016

Borrowing from pastry chefs, engineers create nanolayered composites: Method to stack hundreds of nanoscale layers could open new vistas in materials science July 25th, 2016

Chemistry

New nontoxic process promises larger ultrathin sheets of 2-D nanomaterials July 27th, 2016

New reaction for the synthesis of nanostructures July 21st, 2016

Discoveries

Pixel-array quantum cascade detector paves the way for portable thermal imaging devices: Research team from TU-Wien Center for Micro- and Nanostructures have developed a new 'cooler' sensing instrument thereby increasing energy-efficiency and enhancing mobility for diagnostic tes July 28th, 2016

Dirty to drinkable: Engineers develop novel hybrid nanomaterials to transform water July 28th, 2016

Penn team uses nanoparticles to break up plaque and prevent cavities July 28th, 2016

Beating the heat a challenge at the nanoscale: Rice University scientists detect thermal boundary that hinders ultracold experiments July 28th, 2016

Announcements

Pixel-array quantum cascade detector paves the way for portable thermal imaging devices: Research team from TU-Wien Center for Micro- and Nanostructures have developed a new 'cooler' sensing instrument thereby increasing energy-efficiency and enhancing mobility for diagnostic tes July 28th, 2016

Dirty to drinkable: Engineers develop novel hybrid nanomaterials to transform water July 28th, 2016

Thomas Swan and NGI announce unique partnership July 28th, 2016

Penn team uses nanoparticles to break up plaque and prevent cavities July 28th, 2016

Energy

New nontoxic process promises larger ultrathin sheets of 2-D nanomaterials July 27th, 2016

Designing climate-friendly concrete, from the nanoscale up: New understanding of concrete’s properties could increase lifetime of the building material, decrease emissions July 25th, 2016

An accelerated pipeline to open materials research: ORNL workflow system unites imaging, algorithms, and HPC to advance materials discovery and design July 24th, 2016

Researchers discover key mechanism for producing solar cells: Better understanding of perovskite solar cells could boost widespread use July 21st, 2016

Automotive/Transportation

New nontoxic process promises larger ultrathin sheets of 2-D nanomaterials July 27th, 2016

New lithium-oxygen battery greatly improves energy efficiency, longevity: New chemistry could overcome key drawbacks of lithium-air batteries July 26th, 2016

Researchers improve catalyst efficiency for clean industries: Method reduces use of expensive platinum July 8th, 2016

Artificial synapse rivals biological ones in energy consumption June 21st, 2016

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

New nontoxic process promises larger ultrathin sheets of 2-D nanomaterials July 27th, 2016

New lithium-oxygen battery greatly improves energy efficiency, longevity: New chemistry could overcome key drawbacks of lithium-air batteries July 26th, 2016

An accelerated pipeline to open materials research: ORNL workflow system unites imaging, algorithms, and HPC to advance materials discovery and design July 24th, 2016

Synthesized microporous 3-D graphene-like carbons: IBS research team create carbon synthesis using zeolites as a template July 1st, 2016

Fuel Cells

New nontoxic process promises larger ultrathin sheets of 2-D nanomaterials July 27th, 2016

3-D paper-based microbial fuel cell operating under continuous flow condition July 5th, 2016

Nanoscientists develop the 'ultimate discovery tool': Rapid discovery power is similar to what gene chips offer biology June 25th, 2016

VentureLab nanotechnology startup wins TechConnect Innovation Award June 2nd, 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