Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Novel Nanowires Boost Fuel Cell Efficiency

01.04.2011
Fuel cells have been touted as a cleaner solution to tomorrow's energy needs, with potential applications in everything from cars to computers.

But one reason fuel cells aren't already more widespread is their lack of endurance. Over time, the catalysts used even in today's state-of-the-art fuels cells break down, inhibiting the chemical reaction that converts fuel into electricity. In addition, current technology relies on small particles coated with the catalyst; however, the particles' limited surface area means only a fraction of the catalyst is available at any given time.

Now a team of engineers at the Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science has created a new fuel cell catalyst system using nanowires made of a novel material that boosts long-term performance by 2.4 times compared to today's technology. Their findings appear on the cover of the April issue of ACS Nano.

Yale engineers Jan Schroers and André Taylor have developed miniscule nanowires made of an innovative metal alloy known as a bulk metallic glass (BMG) that have high surface areas, thereby exposing more of the catalyst. They also maintain their activity longer than traditional fuel cell catalyst systems.

Current fuel cell technology uses carbon black, an inexpensive and electrically conductive carbon material, as a support for platinum particles. The carbon transports electricity, while the platinum is the catalyst that drives the production of electricity. The more platinum particles the fuel is exposed to, the more electricity is produced. Yet carbon black is porous, so the platinum inside the inner pores may not be exposed. Carbon black also tends to corrode over time.

"In order to produce more efficient fuel cells, you want to increase the active surface area of the catalyst, and you want your catalyst to last," Taylor said.

At 13 nanometers in scale (about 1/10,000 the width of a human hair), the BMG nanowires that Schroers and Taylor developed are about three times smaller than carbon black particles. The nanowires' long, thin shape gives them much more active surface area per mass compared to carbon black. In addition, rather than sticking platinum particles onto a support material, the Yale team incorporated the platinum into the nanowire alloy itself, ensuring that it continues to react with the fuel over time.

It's the nanowires' unique chemical composition that makes it possible to shape them into such small rods using a hot-press method, said Schroers, who has developed other BMG alloys that can also be blow molded into complicated shapes. The BMG nanowires also conduct electricity better than carbon black and carbon nanotubes, and are less expensive to process.

So far Taylor has tested their catalyst system for alcohol-based fuel cells (including those that use ethanol and methanol as fuel sources), but they say the system could be used in other types of fuel cells and could one day be used in portable electronic devices such as laptop computers and cell phones as well as in remote sensors.

"This is the introduction of a new class of materials that can be used as electrocatalysts," Taylor said. "It's a real step toward making fuel cells commercially viable and, ultimately, supplementing or replacing batteries in electronic devices."

Other authors of the paper include Marcelo Carmo, Ryan C. Sekol, Shiyan Ding and Golden Kumar (all of Yale University).

DOI: 10.1021/nn200033c

Suzanne Taylor Muzzin | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.yale.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New risk factors for anxiety disorders
24.02.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers
24.02.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>