Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Efficient and inexpensive: Researchers develop catalyst material for fuel cells: Platinum-nickel nano-octahedra save 90 percent platinum

Electron micrograph and atomistic model (bottom right) of a highly oxygen-activating platinum-nickel catalyst particle. Its diameter is approximately ten thousand times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. Red spheres represent platinum atoms and green spheres represent nickel atoms. One of the properties of such octahedra is that most surface atoms have the same geometric arrangement. The micrograph was taken at the PICO microscope.

Credit: Source: Forschungszentrum Jülich/TU Berlin
Electron micrograph and atomistic model (bottom right) of a highly oxygen-activating platinum-nickel catalyst particle. Its diameter is approximately ten thousand times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. Red spheres represent platinum atoms and green spheres represent nickel atoms. One of the properties of such octahedra is that most surface atoms have the same geometric arrangement. The micrograph was taken at the PICO microscope.

Credit: Source: Forschungszentrum Jülich/TU Berlin

Abstract:
Efficient, robust and economic catalyst materials hold the key to achieving a breakthrough in fuel cell technology. Scientists from Jülich and Berlin have developed a material for converting hydrogen and oxygen to water using a tenth of the typical amount of platinum that was previously required. With the aid of state-of-the-art electron microscopy, the researchers discovered that the function of the nanometre-scale catalyst particles is decisively determined by their geometric shape and atomic structure. This discovery opens up new paths for further improving catalysts for energy conversion and storage. The results have been published in the current issue of the respected journal Nature Materials (DOI: 10.1038/nmat3668).

Efficient and inexpensive: Researchers develop catalyst material for fuel cells: Platinum-nickel nano-octahedra save 90 percent platinum

Jülich, Germany | Posted on June 17th, 2013

Hydrogen-powered fuel cells are regarded as a clean alternative to conventional combustion engines, as, aside from electric energy, the only substance produced during operation is water. At present, the implementation of hydrogen fuel cells is being hindered by the high material costs of platinum. Large quantities of the expensive noble metal are still required for the electrodes in the fuel cells at which the chemical conversion processes take place. Without the catalytic effect of the platinum, it is not currently possible to achieve the necessary conversion rates.

As catalysis takes place at the surface of the platinum only, material can be saved and, simultaneously, the efficiency of the electrodes improved by using platinum nanoparticles, thus increasing the ratio of platinum surface to material required. Although the tiny particles are around ten thousand times smaller than the diameter of a human hair, the surface area of a kilogram of such particles is equivalent to that of several football fields.

Still more platinum can be saved by mixing it with other, less valuable metals, such as nickel or copper. Scientists from Forschungszentrum Jülich and Technische Universität Berlin have succeeded in developing efficient metallic catalyst particles for converting hydrogen and oxygen to water using only a tenth of the typical amount of platinum that was previously required.

The new catalyst consists not of the round nanoparticles that were previously in widespread use, but of octrahedral-shaped nanoparticles of a platinum-nickel alloy. The researchers discovered that the unique manner in which the platinum and nickel atoms arrange themselves on the surfaces of these particles serves to optimally accelerate the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen to form water. Round or cubic particles, on the other hand, have different atomic arrangements at the surface and are therefore less effective catalysts for the chemical reaction, something which would have to be compensated by using increased amounts of noble metal.

The way in which the life-cycle of the catalysts depends on and can be optimized by their atomic composition was the subject of the research team's investigation, which made use of ultrahigh-resolution electron microscopy at the Ernst Ruska-Centre (ER-C), a facility of the Jülich Aachen Research Alliance. "A decisive factor for understanding the life-cycle of the catalysts was the observation that nickel and platinum atoms prefer not to be evenly distributed at the surface of the nano-octahedra," explains Dr. Marc Heggen from ER-C and the Peter Grünberg Institute at Forschungszentrum Jülich. "Although this is advantageous for reactivity, it limits lifetime."

To identify the location of each element with atomic precision, the researchers used a method in which the electron beam of one of the world's leading ultrahigh-resolution electron microscopes is finely focused, sent through the specimen and, by interactions with the specimen, loses part of its energy. Each element in the specimen can thus be identified like a fingerprint. Conventional electron microscopes are not capable of detecting such chemical signatures with atomic resolution.

"This pioneering experimental work provides direct evidence for the fact that the choice of the correct geometric shape for the catalyst particles is as important for optimizing their function as the choice of their composition and size," says Prof. Peter Strasser from Technische Universität Berlin. "This provides researchers with new possibilities for further improving functional materials, especially catalysts, for energy storage." The latest experiments from Strasser's research group indicate that substantial increases in efficiency may also be possible for the reaction splitting water to produce oxygen in electrolysers, for which the even more expensive noble metal iridium is used.

###

Original publication:

Compositional segregation in shaped Pt alloy nanoparticles and their structural behavior during electrocatalysis
C. Cui, L. Gan, M. Heggen, S. Rudi, P. Strasser
Nature Materials, published online: 16 June 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nmat3668

####

About Jülich, Germany
Forschungszentrum Jülich… ... pursues cutting-edge interdisciplinary research addressing pressing issues facing society today, above all the energy supply of the future. With its competence in materials science and simulation and its expertise in physics, nanotechnology and information technology, as well as in the biosciences and brain research, Jülich is developing the basis for the key technologies of tomorrow. Forschungszentrum Jülich helps to solve the grand challenges facing society in the fields of energy and the environment, health, and information technology. With almost 5000 employees, Jülich – a member of the Helmholtz Association – is one of the large interdisciplinary research centres in Europe.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Dr. Marc Heggen
Forschungszentrum Jülich
Microstructure Research (PGI-5)
tel: +49 2461 61-9479


Prof. Dr. Peter Strasser
Technische Universität Berlin
Department of Chemistry
tel: +49 30 314-29542


Press contact:
Angela Wenzik
science journalist
Forschungszentrum Jülich
tel: +49 2461 61-6048

Copyright © Jülich, Germany

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 Links

Peter Grünberg Institute, Microstructure Research (PGI-5):

TU Berlin, Department of Chemistry:

High-performance microscopy at ER-C – how the PICO works:

Related News Press

News and information

Dressing a metal in various colors: DGIST research developed a technology to coat metal with several nanometers of semiconducting materials January 17th, 2017

Nanoparticle exposure can awaken dormant viruses in the lungs January 17th, 2017

Nanoscale view of energy storage January 16th, 2017

Seeing the quantum future... literally: What if big data could help you see the future and prevent your mobile phone from breaking before it happened? January 16th, 2017

NUS researchers achieve major breakthrough in flexible electronics: New classes of printable electrically conducting polymer materials make better electrodes for plastic electronics and advanced semiconductor devices January 14th, 2017

Laboratories

Nanoscale view of energy storage January 16th, 2017

Nanoscale 'conversations' create complex, multi-layered structures: New technique leverages controlled interactions across surfaces to create self-assembled materials with unprecedented complexity December 22nd, 2016

Imaging

Distinguishing truth under the surface: electrostatic or mechanic December 31st, 2016

Nanoscale 'conversations' create complex, multi-layered structures: New technique leverages controlled interactions across surfaces to create self-assembled materials with unprecedented complexity December 22nd, 2016

Safe and inexpensive hydrogen production as a future energy source: Osaka University researchers develop efficient 'green' hydrogen production system that operates at room temperature in air December 21st, 2016

Discoveries

Dressing a metal in various colors: DGIST research developed a technology to coat metal with several nanometers of semiconducting materials January 17th, 2017

Nanoparticle exposure can awaken dormant viruses in the lungs January 17th, 2017

Nanoscale view of energy storage January 16th, 2017

Seeing the quantum future... literally: What if big data could help you see the future and prevent your mobile phone from breaking before it happened? January 16th, 2017

Announcements

Dressing a metal in various colors: DGIST research developed a technology to coat metal with several nanometers of semiconducting materials January 17th, 2017

Nanoparticle exposure can awaken dormant viruses in the lungs January 17th, 2017

Nanoscale view of energy storage January 16th, 2017

Seeing the quantum future... literally: What if big data could help you see the future and prevent your mobile phone from breaking before it happened? January 16th, 2017

Interviews/Book Reviews/Essays/Reports/Podcasts/Journals/White papers

Dressing a metal in various colors: DGIST research developed a technology to coat metal with several nanometers of semiconducting materials January 17th, 2017

Nanoparticle exposure can awaken dormant viruses in the lungs January 17th, 2017

Nanoscale view of energy storage January 16th, 2017

Seeing the quantum future... literally: What if big data could help you see the future and prevent your mobile phone from breaking before it happened? January 16th, 2017

Tools

Distinguishing truth under the surface: electrostatic or mechanic December 31st, 2016

Nanomechanics Inc. Continues Growth in Revenue and Market Penetration: Leading nanoindentation company reports continued growth in revenues and distribution channels on national and international scales December 27th, 2016

Nanometrics to Present at the 19th Annual Needham Growth Conference December 22nd, 2016

Safe and inexpensive hydrogen production as a future energy source: Osaka University researchers develop efficient 'green' hydrogen production system that operates at room temperature in air December 21st, 2016

Energy

Dressing a metal in various colors: DGIST research developed a technology to coat metal with several nanometers of semiconducting materials January 17th, 2017

Stability challenge in perovskite solar cell technology: New research reveals intrinsic instability issues of iodine-containing perovskite solar cells December 26th, 2016

Nanoscale 'conversations' create complex, multi-layered structures: New technique leverages controlled interactions across surfaces to create self-assembled materials with unprecedented complexity December 22nd, 2016

Safe and inexpensive hydrogen production as a future energy source: Osaka University researchers develop efficient 'green' hydrogen production system that operates at room temperature in air December 21st, 2016

Automotive/Transportation

Nanoscale view of energy storage January 16th, 2017

Illinois team advances GaN-on-Silicon for scalable high electron mobility transistors January 10th, 2017

Going green with nanotechnology December 21st, 2016

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

Fuel Cells

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

Water vapor sets some oxides aflutter: Newly discovered phenomenon could affect materials in batteries and water-splitting devices October 3rd, 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