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).
Suzanne Taylor Muzzin | EurekAlert!
Single-stranded DNA and RNA origami go live
15.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard
New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists
15.12.2017 | Louisiana State University
DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.
Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences
15.12.2017 | Life Sciences