Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Touch of gold improves nanoparticle fuel-cell reactions

13.03.2012
Chemists at Brown University have created a triple-headed metallic nanoparticle that reportedly performs better and lasts longer than any other nanoparticle catalyst studied in fuel-cell reactions.

The key is the addition of gold: It yields a more uniform crystal structure while removing carbon monoxide from the reaction. Results published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.


Midas touch on the nanoscale
Gold atoms create orderly places for iron and platinum atoms, then retreat to the periphery of the fuel cell, where they scrub carbon monoxide from fuel reactions. The tighter organization and cleaner reactions extend the cell's performance life. Credit: Sun Lab/Brown University

Advances in fuel-cell technology have been stymied by the inadequacy of metals studied as catalysts. The drawback to platinum, other than cost, is that it absorbs carbon monoxide in reactions involving fuel cells powered by organic materials like formic acid. A more recently tested metal, palladium, breaks down over time.

Now chemists at Brown University have created a triple-headed metallic nanoparticle that they say outperforms and outlasts all others at the anode end in formic-acid fuel-cell reactions. In a paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the researchers report a 4-nanometer iron-platinum-gold nanoparticle (FePtAu), with a tetragonal crystal structure, generates higher current per unit of mass than any other nanoparticle catalyst tested. Moreover, the trimetallic nanoparticle at Brown performs nearly as well after 13 hours as it did at the start. By contrast, another nanoparticle assembly tested under identical conditions lost nearly 90 percent of its performance in just one-quarter of the time.

“We’ve developed a formic acid fuel-cell catalyst that is the best to have been created and tested so far,” said Shouheng Sun, chemistry professor at Brown and corresponding author on the paper. “It has good durability as well as good activity.”

Gold plays key roles in the reaction. First, it acts as a community organizer of sorts, leading the iron and platinum atoms into neat, uniform layers within the nanoparticle. The gold atoms then exit the stage, binding to the outer surface of the nanoparticle assembly. Gold is effective at ordering the iron and platinum atoms because the gold atoms create extra space within the nanoparticle sphere at the outset. When the gold atoms diffuse from the space upon heating, they create more room for the iron and platinum atoms to assemble themselves. Gold creates the crystallization chemists want in the nanoparticle assembly at lower temperature.

Gold also removes carbon monoxide (CO) from the reaction by catalyzing its oxidation. Carbon monoxide, other than being dangerous to breathe, binds well to iron and platinum atoms, gumming up the reaction. By essentially scrubbing it from the reaction, gold improves the performance of the iron-platinum catalyst. The team decided to try gold after reading in the literature that gold nanoparticles were effective at oxidizing carbon monoxide — so effective, in fact, that gold nanoparticles had been incorporated into the helmets of Japanese firefighters. Indeed, the Brown team’s triple-headed metallic nanoparticles worked just as well at removing CO in the oxidation of formic acid, although it is unclear specifically why.

The authors also highlight the importance of creating an ordered crystal structure for the nanoparticle catalyst. Gold helps researchers get a crystal structure called "face-centered-tetragonal," a four-sided shape in which iron and platinum atoms essentially are forced to occupy specific positions in the structure, creating more order. By imposing atomic order, the iron and platinum layers bind more tightly in the structure, thus making the assembly more stable and durable, essential to better-performing and longer-lasting catalysts.

In experiments, the FePtAu catalyst reached 2809.9 mA/mg Pt (mass-activity, or current generated per milligram of platinum), “which is the highest among all NP (nanoparticle) catalysts ever reported,” the Brown researchers write. After 13 hours, the FePtAu nanoparticle has a mass activity of 2600mA/mg Pt, or 93 percent of its original performance value. In comparison, the scientists write, the well-received platinum-bismuth nanoparticle has a mass activity of about 1720mA/mg Pt under identical experiments, and is four times less active when measured for durability.

The researchers note that other metals may be substituted for gold in the nanoparticle catalyst to improve the catalyst’s performance and durability.

“This communication presents a new structure-control strategy to tune and optimize nanoparticle catalysis for fuel oxidations,” the researchers write.

Sen Zhang, a third-year graduate student in Sun’s lab, helped with the nanoparticle design and synthesis. Shaojun Guo, a postdoctoral fellow in Sun’s lab performed electrochemical oxidation experiments. Huiyuan Zhu, a second-year graduate student in Sun’s lab, synthesized the FePt nanoparticles and ran control experiments. The other contributing author is Dong Su from the Center for Functional Nanomaterials at Brookhaven National Laboratory, who analyzed the structure of the nanoparticle catalyst using the advanced electron microscopy facilities there.

The U.S. Department of Energy and the Exxon Mobil Corporation funded the research.

Editors: Brown University has a fiber link television studio available for domestic and international live and taped interviews, and maintains an ISDN line for radio interviews. For more information, call (401) 863-2476.

Richard Lewis | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.brown.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Scientists discover species of dolphin that existed along South Carolina coast
24.08.2017 | New York Institute of Technology

nachricht The science of fluoride flipping
24.08.2017 | University of North Carolina Health Care

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

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,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

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...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

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...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

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...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

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...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientists discover species of dolphin that existed along South Carolina coast

24.08.2017 | Life Sciences

The science of fluoride flipping

24.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Optimizing therapy planning for cancers of the liver

24.08.2017 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>