Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors
Heifer International



Home > Press > Carbon-coated iron catalyst structure could lead to more-active fuel cells

Illinois professor Andrew Gerwith and graduate student Jason Varnell developed a method to isolate active catalyst nanoparticles from a mixture of iron-containing compounds, a finding that could help researchers refine the catalyst to make fuel cells more active.

Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
Illinois professor Andrew Gerwith and graduate student Jason Varnell developed a method to isolate active catalyst nanoparticles from a mixture of iron-containing compounds, a finding that could help researchers refine the catalyst to make fuel cells more active.

Photo by L. Brian Stauffer

Abstract:
Fuel cells have long held promise as power sources, but low efficiency has created obstacles to realizing that promise. Researchers at the University of Illinois and collaborators have identified the active form of an iron-containing catalyst for the trickiest part of the process: reducing oxygen gas, which has two oxygen atoms, so that it can break apart and combine with ionized hydrogen to make water. The finding could help researchers refine better catalysts, making fuel cells a more energy- and cost-efficient option for powering vehicles and other applications.

Carbon-coated iron catalyst structure could lead to more-active fuel cells

Champaign, IL | Posted on September 15th, 2016

Led by U. of I. chemistry professor Andrew Gewirth, the researchers published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Iron-based catalysts for oxygen reduction are an abundant, inexpensive alternative to catalysts containing precious metals, which are expensive and can degrade. However, the process for making iron-containing catalysts yields a mixture of different compounds containing iron, nitrogen and carbon. Since the various compounds are difficult to separate, exactly which form or forms behave as the active catalyst has remained a mystery to researchers. This has made it difficult to refine or improve the catalyst.

“Previously, we didn’t know what these catalysts were made of because they had a lot of different things inside them,” Gewirth said. “Now we’ve narrowed it down to one component. Since we know what it looks like, we can change it and work to make it better.”

The researchers used a chlorine gas treatment to selectively remove from the mixture particles that were not active for oxygen reduction, refining the mixture until one type of particle remained: a carbon-encapsulated iron nanoparticle.

“We were left with only nanoparticles encapsulated within a carbon support, and that allows them to be more stable,” said Jason Varnell, a graduate student and the first author of the paper. “Iron oxidizes and corrodes on its own. You need to have the carbon around it in order to make it stable under fuel cell conditions.”

The researchers hope that narrowing down the active form of the catalyst can open new possibilities for making purer forms of the active catalyst, or for tweaking the composition to make it even more active.

“What’s the optimal size? What’s the optimal density? What’s the optimal coating material? These are questions we can now address,” Gewirth said. “We’re trying alternative methods for synthesizing the active catalyst and making multicomponent nanoparticles with certain amounts of different metals. Previously, people would add some metal salt into the tube furnace, like cooking – a little of this, a little of that. But now we know we also need to do things at different temperatures to put other metals in it. It gives us the ability to make it a more active catalyst.”

Ultimately, the researchers hope that improved catalyst function and manufacturability will lead to more-efficient fuel cells, which could make them useful for vehicles or other power-intensive applications.

“Now we understand the reactivity better,” Varnell said. “This could lead to the creation of more viable alternatives to precious metal catalysts.”

The National Science Foundation supported this work.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Liz Ahlberg Touchstone

217-244-1073

Andrew Gewirth
217-333-8329

Copyright © University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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

The paper “Identification of carbon-encapsulated iron nanoparticles as active species in non-precious metal oxygen reduction catalysts” is available online:

Related News Press

News and information

First human trial shows ‘wonder’ material can be developed safely: A revolutionary nanomaterial with huge potential to tackle multiple global challenges could be developed further without acute risk to human health, research suggests February 16th, 2024

Detecting breast cancer through a spit test February 16th, 2024

New chip opens door to AI computing at light speed February 16th, 2024

HKUST researchers develop new integration technique for efficient coupling of III-V and silicon February 16th, 2024

Under pressure - space exploration in our time: Advancing space exploration through diverse collaborations and ethical policies February 16th, 2024

Chemistry

Discovery of new Li ion conductor unlocks new direction for sustainable batteries: University of Liverpool researchers have discovered a new solid material that rapidly conducts lithium ions February 16th, 2024

Researchers develop technique to synthesize water-soluble alloy nanoclusters January 12th, 2024

Focused ion beam technology: A single tool for a wide range of applications January 12th, 2024

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

New chip opens door to AI computing at light speed February 16th, 2024

Electrons screen against conductivity-killer in organic semiconductors: The discovery is the first step towards creating effective organic semiconductors, which use significantly less water and energy, and produce far less waste than their inorganic counterparts February 16th, 2024

Discovery of new Li ion conductor unlocks new direction for sustainable batteries: University of Liverpool researchers have discovered a new solid material that rapidly conducts lithium ions February 16th, 2024

A battery’s hopping ions remember where they’ve been: Seen in atomic detail, the seemingly smooth flow of ions through a battery’s electrolyte is surprisingly complicated February 16th, 2024

Possible Futures

First human trial shows ‘wonder’ material can be developed safely: A revolutionary nanomaterial with huge potential to tackle multiple global challenges could be developed further without acute risk to human health, research suggests February 16th, 2024

Detecting breast cancer through a spit test February 16th, 2024

A battery’s hopping ions remember where they’ve been: Seen in atomic detail, the seemingly smooth flow of ions through a battery’s electrolyte is surprisingly complicated February 16th, 2024

NRL discovers two-dimensional waveguides February 16th, 2024

Discoveries

HKUST researchers develop new integration technique for efficient coupling of III-V and silicon February 16th, 2024

Electrons screen against conductivity-killer in organic semiconductors: The discovery is the first step towards creating effective organic semiconductors, which use significantly less water and energy, and produce far less waste than their inorganic counterparts February 16th, 2024

Superbug killer: New synthetic molecule highly effective against drug-resistant bacteria February 16th, 2024

Discovery of new Li ion conductor unlocks new direction for sustainable batteries: University of Liverpool researchers have discovered a new solid material that rapidly conducts lithium ions February 16th, 2024

Announcements

Detecting breast cancer through a spit test February 16th, 2024

New chip opens door to AI computing at light speed February 16th, 2024

HKUST researchers develop new integration technique for efficient coupling of III-V and silicon February 16th, 2024

Electrons screen against conductivity-killer in organic semiconductors: The discovery is the first step towards creating effective organic semiconductors, which use significantly less water and energy, and produce far less waste than their inorganic counterparts February 16th, 2024

Automotive/Transportation

New designs for solid-state electrolytes may soon revolutionize the battery industry: Scientists achieve monumental improvements in lithium-metal-chloride solid-state electrolytes November 3rd, 2023

Previously unknown pathway to batteries with high energy, low cost and long life: Newly discovered reaction mechanism overcomes rapid performance decline in lithium-sulfur batteries September 8th, 2023

Tests find no free-standing nanotubes released from tire tread wear September 8th, 2023

New catalyst could dramatically cut methane pollution from millions of engines: Researchers demonstrate a way to remove the potent greenhouse gas from the exhaust of engines that burn natural gas. July 21st, 2023

Fuel Cells

Current and Future Developments in Nanomaterials and Carbon Nanotubes: Applications of Nanomaterials in Energy Storage and Electronics October 28th, 2022

The “dense” potential of nanostructured superconductors: Scientists use unconventional spark plasma sintering method to prepare highly dense superconducting bulk magnesium diboride with a high current density October 7th, 2022

New iron catalyst could – finally! – make hydrogen fuel cells affordable: Study shows the low-cost catalyst can be a viable alternative to platinum that has stymied commercialization of the eco-friendly fuel for decades because it’s so expensive July 8th, 2022

Development of high-durability single-atomic catalyst using industrial humidifier: Identification of the operating mechanism of cobalt-based single-atomic catalyst and development of a mass production process. Utilization for catalyst development in various fields including fuel May 13th, 2022

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