Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Better fuel cells through quantum mechanics

17.02.2006


Fuel cells must be made more efficient if they are to provide a viable alternative to traditional energy sources, and the choice of materials is crucial to how efficient they are. New findings from scientists at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, Uppsala University, and Linköping University are opening new ways of finding optimal materials for better fuel cells much more quickly.


In the future solid oxide fuel cells may supply residential areas like Stockholm with electricity. In a solid oxide fuel cell, chemically stored energy is converted to electricity with a high degree of efficiency. The figure illustrates this with the chemical reaction between oxygen and hydrogen, which yields water (plus electricity). The article by Andersson et al. explains how the electrolyte should be constructed for optimal performance.



Using methods of calculation from quantum mechanics, the researchers managed to find a better way of understanding the connection between the atomic structure of an element and its capacity to conduct oxygen ions, which is key to the efficiency of fuel cells that use solid oxides as electrolyte materials (so-called solid oxide fuel cells).

The faster the transport of oxygen ions through the material occurs, the better the fuel cell will function. The findings are now being presented in the prestigious American scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, PNAS.


The development of better materials for environmentally friendly energy sources is high on the agenda all over the world. Fuel cells are an example of a system that converts chemical energy directly to electricity in a highly efficient way (for instance, hydrogen + oxygen = water + electricity).

Thus far scientists have found suitable electrolyte materials by trial and error and through empirical experience, which has meant that progress has been slow. Many of the materials used today have been in use for 25 years. The new calculation methods open up entirely new vistas.

“The methods we use to theoretically calculate an element’s capacity to conduct ions enable us to test many more substances than before. Even though the calculations take considerable time, it is both faster and cheaper than testing all of these materials in practice,” says David Andersson, a doctoral student at the Section for Applied Materials Physics at KTH, one of the scientists behind the article.

The scientists have studied how the admixture of tiny quantities of other elements (dopants) to cerium oxide, CeO2, affects how easily oxygen ions can be transported through the material. The quantum mechanical calculations indicate what type of elements may be suitable as dopants, a huge help in work with optimizing future solid oxide fuel cells.

New electrolyte materials not only increase the efficiency of fuel cells; they also help open up new spheres of use. Today’s solid oxide fuel cells normally work at temperatures around 1,000 degrees centigrade. This places great demands on the materials surrounding the fuel cell, making them expensive.

“With other electrolyte materials than those we have today, the working temperature and thereby the cost of the materials surrounding the fuel cells could be brought down. Lower temperatures would also open up the possibility of portable variants of fuel cells,” says David Andersson.

These new findings also make it possible to improve other applications where oxygen ion transport is important, such as sensors that meter the oxygen content of various environments.

Magnus Myrén | alfa
Further information:
http://www.kth.se

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Bare bones: Making bones transparent

27.04.2017 | Life Sciences

Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions

27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>