Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors





Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

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

University of Tehran Researchers Invent Non-Enzyme Sensor to Detect Blood Sugar April 23rd, 2014

Gold nanoparticles help target, quantify breast cancer gene segments in a living cell April 23rd, 2014

Study finds long-term survival of human neural stem cells transplanted into primate brain April 23rd, 2014

High-Performance, Low-Cost Ultracapacitors Built with Graphene and Carbon Nanotubes: Future devices based on technology could bridge gap between batteries and conventional capacitors in portable electronics and hybrid electric vehicles April 23rd, 2014

Guo Lab Shows Potential of RNA as Heat-resistant Polymer Material for Nanoarchitectures April 23rd, 2014

Thin films

Atomic switcheroo explains origins of thin-film solar cell mystery April 23rd, 2014

Transparent Conductive Films and Sensors Are Hot Segments in Printed Electronics: Start-ups in these fields show above-average momentum, while companies working on emissive displays such as OLED are fading, Lux Research says April 17th, 2014

Chemistry

Thinnest feasible membrane produced April 17th, 2014

Targeting cancer with a triple threat: MIT chemists design nanoparticles that can deliver three cancer drugs at a time April 15th, 2014

Scientists Succeed in Simultaneous Determination of Acetaminophen, Codeine in Drug Samples April 9th, 2014

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Gold nanoparticles help target, quantify breast cancer gene segments in a living cell April 23rd, 2014

Atomic switcheroo explains origins of thin-film solar cell mystery April 23rd, 2014

High-Performance, Low-Cost Ultracapacitors Built with Graphene and Carbon Nanotubes: Future devices based on technology could bridge gap between batteries and conventional capacitors in portable electronics and hybrid electric vehicles April 23rd, 2014

Guo Lab Shows Potential of RNA as Heat-resistant Polymer Material for Nanoarchitectures April 23rd, 2014

Discoveries

University of Tehran Researchers Invent Non-Enzyme Sensor to Detect Blood Sugar April 23rd, 2014

Gold nanoparticles help target, quantify breast cancer gene segments in a living cell April 23rd, 2014

Atomic switcheroo explains origins of thin-film solar cell mystery April 23rd, 2014

Characterizing inkjet inks: Malvern Instruments presents new rheological research April 23rd, 2014

Announcements

Characterizing inkjet inks: Malvern Instruments presents new rheological research April 23rd, 2014

NanoSafe, Inc. announces the addition of the Labconco Protector® Glove Box to its NanoSafe Tested™ registry April 23rd, 2014

Study finds long-term survival of human neural stem cells transplanted into primate brain April 23rd, 2014

High-Performance, Low-Cost Ultracapacitors Built with Graphene and Carbon Nanotubes: Future devices based on technology could bridge gap between batteries and conventional capacitors in portable electronics and hybrid electric vehicles April 23rd, 2014

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

Gold nanoparticles help target, quantify breast cancer gene segments in a living cell April 23rd, 2014

Economics = MC2 -- A portrait of the modern physics startup: Successful companies founded by physicists often break the Silicon Valley model, according to new American Institute of Physics report April 23rd, 2014

Study finds long-term survival of human neural stem cells transplanted into primate brain April 23rd, 2014

High-Performance, Low-Cost Ultracapacitors Built with Graphene and Carbon Nanotubes: Future devices based on technology could bridge gap between batteries and conventional capacitors in portable electronics and hybrid electric vehicles April 23rd, 2014

Energy

Atomic switcheroo explains origins of thin-film solar cell mystery April 23rd, 2014

Like a hall of mirrors, nanostructures trap photons inside ultrathin solar cells April 22nd, 2014

Global leader in solar cell manufacturing eyes New York for major expansion outside of Japan: CNSE and Solar Frontier Explore $700 Million Investment, Job Creation in New York State April 22nd, 2014

Nanoreporters tell 'sour' oil from 'sweet': Rice University's hydrogen sulfide nanoreporters gather intel on oil before pumping April 22nd, 2014

Automotive/Transportation

High-Performance, Low-Cost Ultracapacitors Built with Graphene and Carbon Nanotubes: Future devices based on technology could bridge gap between batteries and conventional capacitors in portable electronics and hybrid electric vehicles April 23rd, 2014

Relieving electric vehicle range anxiety with improved batteries: Lithium-sulfur batteries last longer with nanomaterial-packed cathode April 16th, 2014

Tiny particles could help verify goods: Chemical engineers hope smartphone-readable microparticles could crack down on counterfeiting April 15th, 2014

Nanotech Business Review 2013-2014 April 9th, 2014

Fuel Cells

University of Surrey collaborates with India and Tata Steel to revolutionise renewable energy March 26th, 2014

Novel membrane reveals water molecules will bounce off a liquid surface: Study may lead to more efficient water-desalination systems, fundamental understanding of fluid flow March 16th, 2014

Big Step for Next-Generation Fuel Cells and Electrolyzers: Researchers at Berkeley and Argonne National Labs Discover Highly Promising New Class of Nanocatalyst February 27th, 2014

Research and applications of iron oxide nanoparticles February 26th, 2014

Solar/Photovoltaic

Atomic switcheroo explains origins of thin-film solar cell mystery April 23rd, 2014

Like a hall of mirrors, nanostructures trap photons inside ultrathin solar cells April 22nd, 2014

Global leader in solar cell manufacturing eyes New York for major expansion outside of Japan: CNSE and Solar Frontier Explore $700 Million Investment, Job Creation in New York State April 22nd, 2014

High-temperature plasmonics eyed for solar, computer innovation April 17th, 2014

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







© Copyright 1999-2014 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE