Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

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

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet August 17th, 2017

Candy cane supercapacitor could enable fast charging of mobile phones August 17th, 2017

Freeze-dried foam soaks up carbon dioxide: Rice University scientists lead effort to make novel 3-D material August 16th, 2017

Gold shines through properties of nano biosensors: Researchers discover that fluorescence in ligand-protected gold nanoclusters is an intrinsic property of the gold particles themselves August 16th, 2017

Chemistry

Two Scientists Receive Grants to Develop New Materials: Chad Mirkin and Monica Olvera de la Cruz recognized by Sherman Fairchild Foundation August 16th, 2017

2-faced 2-D material is a first at Rice: Rice University materials scientists create flat sandwich of sulfur, molybdenum and selenium August 14th, 2017

Clarifiying complex chemical processes with quantum computers August 3rd, 2017

Strem Chemicals Surpasses ChemStewards® Requirements: Strem Qualifies for SOCMA’s “Excellence” Ranking August 3rd, 2017

Thin films

Rice University chemists make laser-induced graphene from wood July 31st, 2017

Graduate Students from Across the Country Attend Hands-on NanoCamp: Prominent scientists Warren Oliver, Ph.D., and George Pharr, Ph.D., presented a weeklong NanoCamp for hand-picked graduate students across the United States July 26th, 2017

Studying Argon Gas Trapped in Two-Dimensional Array of Tiny "Cages": Understanding how individual atoms enter and exit the nanoporous frameworks could help scientists design new materials for gas separation and nuclear waste remediation July 17th, 2017

Thinking thin brings new layering and thermal abilities to the semiconductor industry: In a breakthrough for the semiconductor industry, researchers demonstrate a new layer transfer technique called "controlled spalling" that creates many thin layers from a single gallium nitride July 11th, 2017

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet August 17th, 2017

Freeze-dried foam soaks up carbon dioxide: Rice University scientists lead effort to make novel 3-D material August 16th, 2017

2-faced 2-D material is a first at Rice: Rice University materials scientists create flat sandwich of sulfur, molybdenum and selenium August 14th, 2017

Engineers pioneer platinum shell formation process – and achieve first-ever observation August 11th, 2017

Discoveries

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet August 17th, 2017

Candy cane supercapacitor could enable fast charging of mobile phones August 17th, 2017

Freeze-dried foam soaks up carbon dioxide: Rice University scientists lead effort to make novel 3-D material August 16th, 2017

Gold shines through properties of nano biosensors: Researchers discover that fluorescence in ligand-protected gold nanoclusters is an intrinsic property of the gold particles themselves August 16th, 2017

Announcements

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet August 17th, 2017

Candy cane supercapacitor could enable fast charging of mobile phones August 17th, 2017

Freeze-dried foam soaks up carbon dioxide: Rice University scientists lead effort to make novel 3-D material August 16th, 2017

Gold shines through properties of nano biosensors: Researchers discover that fluorescence in ligand-protected gold nanoclusters is an intrinsic property of the gold particles themselves August 16th, 2017

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

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet August 17th, 2017

Candy cane supercapacitor could enable fast charging of mobile phones August 17th, 2017

Freeze-dried foam soaks up carbon dioxide: Rice University scientists lead effort to make novel 3-D material August 16th, 2017

Gold shines through properties of nano biosensors: Researchers discover that fluorescence in ligand-protected gold nanoclusters is an intrinsic property of the gold particles themselves August 16th, 2017

Energy

Freeze-dried foam soaks up carbon dioxide: Rice University scientists lead effort to make novel 3-D material August 16th, 2017

Two Scientists Receive Grants to Develop New Materials: Chad Mirkin and Monica Olvera de la Cruz recognized by Sherman Fairchild Foundation August 16th, 2017

Fewer defects from a 2-D approach August 15th, 2017

2-faced 2-D material is a first at Rice: Rice University materials scientists create flat sandwich of sulfur, molybdenum and selenium August 14th, 2017

Automotive/Transportation

2-faced 2-D material is a first at Rice: Rice University materials scientists create flat sandwich of sulfur, molybdenum and selenium August 14th, 2017

Engineers pioneer platinum shell formation process – and achieve first-ever observation August 11th, 2017

GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Silicon Mobility Deliver the Industry’s First Automotive FPCU to Boost Performance for Hybrid and Electric Vehicles: Silicon Mobility and GF’s 55nm LPx -enabled platform, with SST’s highly-reliable SuperFlash® memory technology, boosts automotive performance, ene August 3rd, 2017

Rice U. scientists map ways forward for lithium-ion batteries for extreme environments: Paper details developments toward high-temperature batteries July 27th, 2017

Fuel Cells

Engineers pioneer platinum shell formation process – and achieve first-ever observation August 11th, 2017

Argonne National Laboratory’s Continuous ALD Technology Licensed Exclusively to Forge Nano July 7th, 2017

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

Solar/Photovoltaic

Fewer defects from a 2-D approach August 15th, 2017

Controlled manipulation: Scientists at FAU are investigating the properties of hybrid systems consisting of carbon nanostructures and a dye August 8th, 2017

Simultaneous Design and Nanomanufacturing Speeds Up Fabrication: Method enhances broadband light absorption in solar cells August 5th, 2017

Atomic movies may help explain why perovskite solar cells are more efficient: SLAC's ultrafast 'electron camera' captures surprising atomic motions in these next-generation materials July 28th, 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