Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Tufts researchers find new cost-effective catalyst for hydrogen production for fuel cells

04.07.2003


Discovery could ignite ‘engine of the future’ — Eliminating millions of dollars on use of precious metals

Researchers at Tufts University have discovered that it’s possible to make hydrogen from fossil fuels using far less platinum or gold than current fuel processing technology has required. Their research shows that 90 percent of precious metals used today may be removed from the catalyst without affecting its ability to produce hydrogen.

This finding could have potential cost savings of millions of dollars in the materials required to commercialize the fuel cell technology.



The research will be published in the July 3 edition of "Science Express," the online version of the journal Science that provides rapid electronic publication of timely and important research papers. The article also will be published in Science later this summer.

A fuel cell consists of two electrodes sandwiched around an electrolyte. Hydrogen fed to the one electrode (anode) passes through the electrolyte in the form of protons and combines with oxygen on the other electrode (cathode) making water and producing heat. Electricity is generated in the process. A fuel cell will produce energy in the form of electricity and heat as long as fuel and oxygen are supplied. To produce fuel-cell quality hydrogen, an important step involves the removal of any by-product carbon monoxide, which poisons the fuel cell anode catalyst.

"A lot of people have spent a lot of time studying the properties of gold and platinum nanoparticles that are used to catalyze the reaction of carbon monoxide with water to make hydrogen and carbon dioxide," said Maria Flytzani-Stephanopoulos, professor of chemical and biological engineering at Tufts and the lead researcher of the project. "We find that for this reaction over a cerium oxide catalyst carrying the gold or platinum, metal nanoparticles are not important. Only a tiny amount of the precious metal in non metallic form is needed to create the active catalyst. Our finding will help researchers find a cost-effective way to produce clean energy from fuel cells in the near future"

She and her two colleagues, doctoral student Qi Fu and research professor Howard Saltsburg, were funded by a $300,000 three-year grant from the National Science Foundation, and have filed a provisional patent for their research. Their cutting-edge work in catalytic fuel processing to generate hydrogen for fuel cell applications is one of the major undertakings at Tufts’ Science and Technology Center at the University’s Medford campus.

The Tufts researchers’ article is based on the "water-gas shift" reaction they use to make hydrogen from water and carbon monoxide over cerium oxide loaded with gold or platinum. Typically, a loading of 1-10 weight percent of gold or other precious metals is used to make an effective catalyst. But the Tufts team discovered that, after stripping the gold with a cyanide solution, the catalyst was just as active with a slight amount of the gold remaining – one-tenth the normal amount used.

According to Flytzani-Stephanopoulos, "This finding is significant because it shows that metallic nanoparticles are mere ’spectator species’ for some reactions, such as the water-gas shift. The phenomenon may be more general, since we show that it also holds for platinum and may also hold true for other metals and metal oxide supports, such as titanium and iron oxide."

She adds, "It opens the way for new catalyst designs so more hydrogen can be produced with less precious metal. This can pave the way for cost-effective clean energy production from fuel cells in the near future."

Fuel cells currently are being used on a trial basis in some buses, cars and even hotels, but they’re expensive. It may take up to 10 years until the technology is used in transportation and by the general population. (Since the 1960s, one type of fuel cell has powered NASA’s spacecrafts.)

"We’ve raised the issue of now having to look back and see if less precious metal may be used in other similar applications," said Saltsburg. There’s much more to be done, and that’s what makes the research exciting."


About the researches

Maria Flytzani-Stephanopoulos has been active in the field of environmental catalysis for the past 20 years. In the early 1980s she was a member of the technical staff at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., where she conducted research in autothermal and steam reforming of fuels for fuel cell applications and in coal gas desulfurization over regenerable mixed oxide sorbents. She also worked at MIT’s chemical engineering department on novel catalysts for air pollution control prior to joining Tufts in 1994. Flytzani-Stephanopoulos has directed many projects sponsored by the government and industry, holds seven patents, has published more than 100 technical papers and has received several honors and awards, including three NASA certificates of recognition, a National Science Foundation career advancement award, a NASA achievement award, and the Raytheon Professorship in Pollution Prevention at Tufts. She is the North and South American editor of the journal Applied Catalysis B: Environmental.

Howard Saltsburg has been active in the field of surface science and catalysis for 40 years. He has published seminal works in molecular beam scattering, solid electrolyte aided studies of catalytic reactions, and the use of microelectronic fabrication techniques to create controlled structure catalysts. He is a research professor of chemical and biological engineering at Tufts and professor emeritus of chemical engineering at the University of Rochester.

Qi Fu is a doctoral student in chemical and biological engineering at Tufts who recently received the Outstanding Engineering Graduate Researcher award. This research will form a significant part of her dissertation. Her bachelor’s and master’s degrees are from East China University of Science and Technology, Shanghai, and from the Research Institute of Petroleum Processing, Beijing, People’s Republic of China.

Tufts University, located on three Massachusetts campuses in Boston, Medford/Somerville, and Grafton, and in Talloires, France, is recognized among the premier research universities in the United States. Tufts enjoys a global reputation for academic excellence and for the preparation of students as leaders in a wide range of professions. A growing number of innovative teaching and research initiatives span all Tufts campuses, and collaboration among the faculty and students in the undergraduate, graduate and professional programs across the University’s eight schools is widely encouraged.

Craig LeMoult | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.tufts.edu/

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Energy hybrid: Battery meets super capacitor
01.12.2016 | Technische Universität Graz

nachricht Tailor-Made Membranes for the Environment
30.11.2016 | Forschungszentrum Jülich

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>