Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors





Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


DHgate

Home > Press > Copper promises cheaper, sturdier fuel cells: Copper nanowires offer an efficient, inexpensive approach to solar energy harvesting

The copper nanowires, seen here with a nickel coating, can split water molecules under the power of sunlight.

Credit: Zuofeng Chen
The copper nanowires, seen here with a nickel coating, can split water molecules under the power of sunlight.

Credit: Zuofeng Chen

Abstract:
Copper adorns the Statue of Liberty, makes sturdy, affordable wiring, and helps our bodies absorb iron. Now, researchers at Duke University would like to use copper to transform sunlight and water into a chemical fuel.

Copper promises cheaper, sturdier fuel cells: Copper nanowires offer an efficient, inexpensive approach to solar energy harvesting

Durham, NC | Posted on November 22nd, 2013

Converting solar energy into storable fuel remains one of the greatest challenges of modern chemistry. One of the ways chemists have tried to capture the power of the sun is through water splitting, in which the atoms of H2O are broken apart so the hydrogen may be collected and used as fuel. Plants do this naturally through photosynthesis, and for half a century, scientists have tried to recreate that process by tinkering with chemical catalysts jumpstarted by sunlight.

Indium tin oxide (ITO) is one material they've commonly tried to use. Researchers prefer it for its transparency -- which allows sunlight to pass through and trigger the water-splitting reactions -- and its ability to conduct electricity. But ITO is far from an ideal material.

"Indium is not very abundant," said Ben Wiley, assistant professor of chemistry at Duke University. "It is similar in abundance to silver in the earth's crust." As a result, solar fuel cells using ITO will likely remain expensive and uncompetitive with conventional energy sources like coal and natural gas, he said.

Wiley's lab has created something they hope can replace ITO: copper nanowires fused in a see-through film. The team -- including two postdoctoral researchers, a graduate student, and a former graduate student from Duke -- published their new approach last month in the chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie.

Copper is 1000 times more plentiful and 100 times less expensive than indium. Copper nanowire catalysts also cost less to produce than their ITO counterparts because they can be "printed" on pieces of glass or plastic in a liquid ink form, using a machine that functions much like a printing press. ITO production, by contrast, requires large, sequential chambers of pumps and vacuums that deposit a thin layer of indium atoms at a far slower rate.

The copper nanowire films consist of networks of microscopic metal rods, the properties and applications of which Wiley's lab has studied for years. The nanowires provide a high surface area for catalyzing chemistry, and Wiley's team experimented with coating them in either cobalt or nickel -- metals that serve as the actual chemical catalyst. Even with a coat of cobalt or nickel, the nanowire films allow nearly seven times more sunlight to pass through than ITO. The films are also flexible, leading Wiley to imagine the completed fuel cells one day being attached to backpacks or cars.

In the meantime, engineering and chemistry challenges remain. The nanowire films carry out only one half of the water-splitting equation, a process called water oxidation. The other half of the reaction involves using the electrons obtained from water oxidation to reduce water to hydrogen. Wiley's team expects to publish their work on this process in the coming year.

"A lot of groups are working on putting together complete devices to generate fuels from sunlight," he said, but "the efficiencies and costs of these systems have to be improved for them to get to commercial [production]."

Wiley noted that solar energy production is just one application of the copper nanowire films they study. The nanowires also show promise for use in flexible touch screens, organic LED (or OLED) lights and smart glass.

###

This research was funded by the National Science Foundation Research Triangle Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (DMR-1121107), a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development award (DMR-1253534) and a National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship.

CITATION: "Optically Transparent Water Oxidation Catalysts Based on Copper Nanowires," Zuofeng Chen, Aaron Rathmell, Shengrong Ye, Adria Wilson, Ben Wiley. Angewandte Chemie, October 18, 2013. 10.1002/ange.201306585.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Erin Weeks

919-681-8057

Copyright © Duke 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

Transparent, electrically conductive network of encapsulated silver nanowires: A novel electrode for optoelectronics August 1st, 2015

Harris & Harris Group Portfolio Company, HZO, Announces Partnerships with Dell and Motorola August 1st, 2015

Advances and Applications in Biosensing, Sensor Power, and Sensor R&D to be Covered at Sensors Global Summit August 1st, 2015

Kalam: versatility personified August 1st, 2015

Thin films

Nano Spray Instrument Market 2015 - Global Industry Survey, Analysis, Size, Share, Outlook and Forecast to 2020 July 31st, 2015

Heating and cooling with light leads to ultrafast DNA diagnostics July 31st, 2015

Chemistry

March 2016; 6th Int'l Conference on Nanostructures in Iran July 29th, 2015

Meet the high-performance single-molecule diode: Major milestone in molecular electronics scored by Berkeley Lab and Columbia University team July 29th, 2015

'Seeing' molecular interactions could give boost to organic electronics July 28th, 2015

Quantum networks: Back and forth are not equal distances! July 28th, 2015

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Self-assembling, biomimetic membranes may aid water filtration August 1st, 2015

Kalam: versatility personified August 1st, 2015

Heating and cooling with light leads to ultrafast DNA diagnostics July 31st, 2015

Theoretical Physicists at Freie Universitšt Berlin Develop New Insights into Interface between Classical and Quantum Worlds July 31st, 2015

Discoveries

Gold-diamond nanodevice for hyperlocalised cancer therapy: Gold nanorods can be used as remote controlled nanoheaters delivering the right amount of thermal treatment to cancer cells, thanks to diamond nanocrystals used as temperature sensors August 1st, 2015

Shaping the hilly landscapes of a semi-conductor nanoworld August 1st, 2015

Solid state physics: Quantum matter stuck in unrest August 1st, 2015

Self-assembling, biomimetic membranes may aid water filtration August 1st, 2015

Announcements

Self-assembling, biomimetic membranes may aid water filtration August 1st, 2015

Transparent, electrically conductive network of encapsulated silver nanowires: A novel electrode for optoelectronics August 1st, 2015

Harris & Harris Group Portfolio Company, HZO, Announces Partnerships with Dell and Motorola August 1st, 2015

Advances and Applications in Biosensing, Sensor Power, and Sensor R&D to be Covered at Sensors Global Summit August 1st, 2015

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

Gold-diamond nanodevice for hyperlocalised cancer therapy: Gold nanorods can be used as remote controlled nanoheaters delivering the right amount of thermal treatment to cancer cells, thanks to diamond nanocrystals used as temperature sensors August 1st, 2015

Shaping the hilly landscapes of a semi-conductor nanoworld August 1st, 2015

Solid state physics: Quantum matter stuck in unrest August 1st, 2015

Self-assembling, biomimetic membranes may aid water filtration August 1st, 2015

Energy

Transparent, electrically conductive network of encapsulated silver nanowires: A novel electrode for optoelectronics August 1st, 2015

Springer and Tsinghua University Press present the second Nano Research Award: Paul Alivisatos of the University of California Berkeley receives the honor for outstanding contributions in nanoscience July 30th, 2015

Controlling Dynamic Behavior of Carbon Nanosheets in Structures Made Possible July 30th, 2015

March 2016; 6th Int'l Conference on Nanostructures in Iran July 29th, 2015

Automotive/Transportation

Sol-gel capacitor dielectric offers record-high energy storage July 30th, 2015

Controlling Dynamic Behavior of Carbon Nanosheets in Structures Made Possible July 30th, 2015

Ultra-thin hollow nanocages could reduce platinum use in fuel cell electrodes July 24th, 2015

Researchers boost wireless power transfer with magnetic field enhancement July 23rd, 2015

Fuel Cells

Ultra-thin hollow nanocages could reduce platinum use in fuel cell electrodes July 24th, 2015

Nanowires give 'solar fuel cell' efficiency a tenfold boost: Eindhoven researchers make important step towards a solar cell that generates hydrogen July 17th, 2015

Molecular fuel cell catalysts hold promise for efficient energy storage July 16th, 2015

Clay sheets stack to form proton conductors: Model system demonstrates a new material property emerging from the assembly of nanoscale building blocks July 13th, 2015

Solar/Photovoltaic

Transparent, electrically conductive network of encapsulated silver nanowires: A novel electrode for optoelectronics August 1st, 2015

Springer and Tsinghua University Press present the second Nano Research Award: Paul Alivisatos of the University of California Berkeley receives the honor for outstanding contributions in nanoscience July 30th, 2015

Reshaping the solar spectrum to turn light to electricity: UC Riverside researchers find a way to use the infrared region of the sun's spectrum to make solar cells more efficient July 27th, 2015

Rice University finding could lead to cheap, efficient metal-based solar cells: Plasmonics study suggests how to maximize production of 'hot electrons' July 22nd, 2015

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