The finding announced this month in Nature Materials may be key to solving fuel cell reliability issues and lead to reduced operating costs in high-performance stationary fuel cells.
Electricity is produced in fuel cells from the electrochemical reaction between a hydrogen-rich fuel and oxygen that produces electric current and water. Research on small fuel cells for cars has dominated the news, but stationary fuel cells are the Goliaths—operating at up to 70 percent efficiency and providing enough electricity—up to 100 megawatts—to power small cities, hospitals, military installations or airports without relying on the electric power grid. Smaller versions are being considered for auxiliary power units in such applications as refrigeration trucks to reduce engine idling.
They are called “solid oxide” fuel cells (SOFCs) because the heart of the cell is a solid electrolyte that transports oxygen ions extracted from air to meet with hydrogen atoms. This alchemy traditionally requires high temperatures—about 850 degrees Celsius in conventional SOFCs—and therefore long startup times, ranging from 45 minutes to eight hours.
The high temperatures necessitate more expensive materials and higher operating costs, so stationary fuel cell research is focused on lowering operating temperatures as well as shortening startup times. The U.S. Department of Energy’s goal is to slash the startup time to two minutes.
Chemists at the University of Liverpool fabricated a new oxygen ion electrolyte material of lanthanum, strontium, gallium and oxygen and sent it to the NIST Center for Neutron Research (NCNR) to investigate with collaborators from NIST, the University of Maryland and University College London. Neutrons provide an atomic-scale view of materials so scientists can “see” what is happening at that level.
The oxygen ions in the new materials become mobile at 600 degrees C, much lower than previously studied materials. Researchers suspected the reason lay in the location of the oxygen ions in the crystal framework of the compound. The neutron probes allowed them to determine the basic crystal structure that held the lanthanum, strontium, gallium and oxygen atoms, however the exact nature of the extra oxygen ions was unclear.
NCNR researchers recommended borrowing a method from radio astronomy called maximum entropy analysis. “When astronomers are not able to visualize a specific part of an image because it constitutes such a small part of the total information collected, they utilize a part of applied mathematics called information theory to reconstruct a sharper image,” explains NCNR researcher Mark Green. “The combination of neutron diffraction and maximum entropy analysis not only allowed us to determine the location of additional oxygen ions outside of the basic framework, but revealed a new mechanism for ion conduction.”
“It allows us to take a fundamentally different approach in the design of future materials, so that we can harness this new mechanism for oxide ion conduction and produce lower operating fuel cells,” says Green. “This type of work is very important to us, which is why as part of the NCNR expansion we are developing a new materials diffractometer that will greatly enhance our capabilities in energy related research.”
* X. Kuang, M.A. Green, H. Niu, P Zajdel, C. Dickinson, J.B. Claridge, L. Jantsky and M.J. Rosseinsky. Interstitial oxide ion conductivity in the layered tetrahedral network melilite structure. Nature Materials, June 2008
Evelyn Brown | newswise
Laser sensor LAH-G1 - optical distance sensors with measurement value display
15.08.2017 | WayCon Positionsmesstechnik GmbH
Engineers find better way to detect nanoparticles
14.08.2017 | Washington University in St. Louis
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences
21.08.2017 | Health and Medicine
21.08.2017 | Materials Sciences