Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors
Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Study boosts hope for cheaper fuel cells: Rice University researchers show how to optimize nanomaterials for fuel-cell cathodes

Simulations by Rice University scientists show how carbon nanomaterials may be optimized to replace expensive platinum in cathodes for electricity-generating fuel cells for transportation and other applications. (Credit: Yakobson Research Group/Rice University)
Simulations by Rice University scientists show how carbon nanomaterials may be optimized to replace expensive platinum in cathodes for electricity-generating fuel cells for transportation and other applications. (Credit: Yakobson Research Group/Rice University)

Abstract:
Nitrogen-doped carbon nanotubes or modified graphene nanoribbons may be suitable replacements for platinum for fast oxygen reduction, the key reaction in fuel cells that transform chemical energy into electricity, according to Rice University researchers.

Study boosts hope for cheaper fuel cells: Rice University researchers show how to optimize nanomaterials for fuel-cell cathodes

Houston, TX | Posted on January 6th, 2018

The findings are from computer simulations by Rice scientists who set out to see how carbon nanomaterials can be improved for fuel-cell cathodes. Their study reveals the atom-level mechanisms by which doped nanomaterials catalyze oxygen reduction reactions (ORR).

The research appears in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Nanoscale.

Theoretical physicist Boris Yakobson and his Rice colleagues are among many looking for a way to speed up ORR for fuel cells, which were discovered in the 19th century but not widely used until the latter part of the 20th. They have since powered transportation modes ranging from cars and buses to spacecraft.

The Rice researchers, including lead author and former postdoctoral associate Xiaolong Zou and graduate student Luqing Wang, used computer simulations to discover why graphene nanoribbons and carbon nanotubes modified with nitrogen and/or boron, long studied as a substitute for expensive platinum, are so sluggish and how they can be improved.

Doping, or chemically modifying, conductive nanotubes or nanoribbons changes their chemical bonding characteristics. They can then be used as cathodes in proton-exchange membrane fuel cells. In a simple fuel cell, anodes draw in hydrogen fuel and separate it into protons and electrons. While the negative electrons flow out as usable current, the positive protons are drawn to the cathode, where they recombine with returning electrons and oxygen to produce water.

The models showed that thinner carbon nanotubes with a relatively high concentration of nitrogen would perform best, as oxygen atoms readily bond to the carbon atom nearest the nitrogen. Nanotubes have an advantage over nanoribbons because of their curvature, which distorts chemical bonds around their circumference and leads to easier binding, the researchers found.

The tricky bit is making a catalyst that is neither too strong nor too weak as it bonds with oxygen. The curve of the nanotube provides a way to tune the nanotubes' binding energy, according to the researchers, who determined that "ultrathin" nanotubes with a radius between 7 and 10 angstroms would be ideal. (An angstrom is one ten-billionth of a meter; for comparison, a typical atom is about 1 angstrom in diameter.)

They also showed co-doping graphene nanoribbons with nitrogen and boron enhances the oxygen-absorbing abilities of ribbons with zigzag edges. In this case, oxygen finds a double-bonding opportunity. First, they attach directly to positively charged boron-doped sites. Second, they're drawn by carbon atoms with high spin charge, which interacts with the oxygen atoms' spin-polarized electron orbitals. While the spin effect enhances adsorption, the binding energy remains weak, also achieving a balance that allows for good catalytic performance.

The researchers showed the same catalytic principles held true, but to lesser effect, for nanoribbons with armchair edges.

"While doped nanotubes show good promise, the best performance can probably be achieved at the nanoribbon zigzag edges where nitrogen substitution can expose the so-called pyridinic nitrogen, which has known catalytic activity," Yakobson said.

"If arranged in a foam-like configuration, such material can approach the efficiency of platinum," Wang said. "If price is a consideration, it would certainly be competitive."

Zou is now an assistant professor at Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute in Shenzhen City, China. Yakobson is the Karl F. Hasselmann Professor of Materials Science and NanoEngineering and a professor of chemistry.

The research was supported by the Robert Welch Foundation, the Army Research Office, the Development and Reform Commission of Shenzhen Municipality, the Youth 1000-Talent Program of China and Tsinghua-Berkeley Shenzhen Institute.

####

About Rice University
Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,879 undergraduates and 2,861 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for quality of life and for lots of race/class interaction and No. 2 for happiest students by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. To read “What they’re saying about Rice,” go to http://tinyurl.com/RiceUniversityoverview .

Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
David Ruth
713-348-6327


Mike Williams
713-348-6728

Copyright © Rice 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 Links

Read the abstract at:

Yakobson Research Group:

Xiaolong Zou:

Rice University Department of Materials Science and NanoEngineering:

Related News Press

Graphene/ Graphite

Coal could yield treatment for traumatic injuries: Rice, Texas A&M, UTHealth scientists discover coal-derived ‘dots’ are effective antioxidant April 25th, 2019

News and information

Coal could yield treatment for traumatic injuries: Rice, Texas A&M, UTHealth scientists discover coal-derived ‘dots’ are effective antioxidant April 25th, 2019

Arrowhead Begins Triple Combination Cohort in Chronic HBV Patients and Earns $25 Million Milestone Payment from Janssen April 23rd, 2019

Micro-LEDs achieve superior brightness with Picosun’s ALD technology April 23rd, 2019

Scientists explore the unknown behaviour of gold nanoparticles with neutrons April 23rd, 2019

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Coal could yield treatment for traumatic injuries: Rice, Texas A&M, UTHealth scientists discover coal-derived ‘dots’ are effective antioxidant April 25th, 2019

Scientists explore the unknown behaviour of gold nanoparticles with neutrons April 23rd, 2019

Coincidence helps with quantum measurements: New method enables quantum simulations on larger systems April 22nd, 2019

From nata de coco to computer screens: Cellulose gets a chance to shine: Researchers at Osaka University meticulously measured the optical birefringence of highly aligned cellulose nanofibers, paving the way for sharper television, computer, and smartphone screens April 19th, 2019

Possible Futures

Coal could yield treatment for traumatic injuries: Rice, Texas A&M, UTHealth scientists discover coal-derived ‘dots’ are effective antioxidant April 25th, 2019

Arrowhead Begins Triple Combination Cohort in Chronic HBV Patients and Earns $25 Million Milestone Payment from Janssen April 23rd, 2019

Scientists explore the unknown behaviour of gold nanoparticles with neutrons April 23rd, 2019

How slippery surfaces allow sticky pastes and gels to slide: Engineered surface treatment developed at MIT can reduce waste and improve efficiency in many processes April 23rd, 2019

Discoveries

Coal could yield treatment for traumatic injuries: Rice, Texas A&M, UTHealth scientists discover coal-derived ‘dots’ are effective antioxidant April 25th, 2019

Scientists explore the unknown behaviour of gold nanoparticles with neutrons April 23rd, 2019

How slippery surfaces allow sticky pastes and gels to slide: Engineered surface treatment developed at MIT can reduce waste and improve efficiency in many processes April 23rd, 2019

Coincidence helps with quantum measurements: New method enables quantum simulations on larger systems April 22nd, 2019

Announcements

Coal could yield treatment for traumatic injuries: Rice, Texas A&M, UTHealth scientists discover coal-derived ‘dots’ are effective antioxidant April 25th, 2019

Arrowhead Begins Triple Combination Cohort in Chronic HBV Patients and Earns $25 Million Milestone Payment from Janssen April 23rd, 2019

Micro-LEDs achieve superior brightness with Picosun’s ALD technology April 23rd, 2019

Scientists explore the unknown behaviour of gold nanoparticles with neutrons April 23rd, 2019

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

Coal could yield treatment for traumatic injuries: Rice, Texas A&M, UTHealth scientists discover coal-derived ‘dots’ are effective antioxidant April 25th, 2019

Scientists explore the unknown behaviour of gold nanoparticles with neutrons April 23rd, 2019

How slippery surfaces allow sticky pastes and gels to slide: Engineered surface treatment developed at MIT can reduce waste and improve efficiency in many processes April 23rd, 2019

Coincidence helps with quantum measurements: New method enables quantum simulations on larger systems April 22nd, 2019

Automotive/Transportation

Magnetoresistive sensors for near future innovative development March 22nd, 2019

Lightweight metal foams become bone hard and explosion proof after being nanocoated March 14th, 2019

Synopsys and GLOBALFOUNDRIES Collaborate to Develop Industry’s First Automotive Grade 1 IP for 22FDX Process: Synopsys’ Portfolio of DesignWare Foundation, Analog, and Interface IP Accelerate ISO 26262 Qualification for ADAS, Powertrain, 5G, and Radar Automotive SoCs February 22nd, 2019

Researchers create ultra-lightweight ceramic material that withstands extreme temperatures: UCLA-led team develops highly durable aerogel that could ultimately be an upgrade for insulation on spacecraft February 15th, 2019

Fuel Cells

Current generation via quantum proton transfer February 1st, 2019

Researchers use jiggly Jell-O to make powerful new hydrogen fuel catalyst: The inexpensive new material can split water just as efficiently as costly platinum December 14th, 2018

High-performance self-assembled catalyst for SOFC October 12th, 2018

Harvesting clean hydrogen fuel through artificial photosynthesis May 3rd, 2018

Grants/Sponsored Research/Awards/Scholarships/Gifts/Contests/Honors/Records

Coal could yield treatment for traumatic injuries: Rice, Texas A&M, UTHealth scientists discover coal-derived ‘dots’ are effective antioxidant April 25th, 2019

From 2D to 1D: Atomically quasi '1D' wires using a carbon nanotube template: New bulk synthesis method for nanowires of molybdenum telluride for nanoelectronics April 19th, 2019

'Nanobodies' from alpacas could help bring CAR T-cell therapy to solid tumors: Unusually small antibodies, targeted to the tumor micro-environment, curb melanoma and colon cancer in mouse models April 11th, 2019

2D borophene gets a closer look: Rice, Northwestern find new ways to image, characterize unique material April 11th, 2019

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project