Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Platinum Nanocube Makes Hydrogen Fuel Cells Cheaper And More Efficient

Date:
April 22, 2008
Source:
Brown University
Summary:
Two great obstacles to hydrogen-powered vehicles lie with fuel cells. Fuel cells, which like batteries produce electrical power through chemical reactions, have been plagued by their relatively low efficiency and high production costs. Scientists have tested a wide assortment of metals and materials to overcome the twin challenge.

Making a Platinum Nanocube. Transmission electron microscopy, far left, shows 7-nm. platinum nanocubes used for oxygen reduction reaction. In the upper right corner is a high-resolution picture of a single nanocube. The illustration depicts oxygen reduction on the surface of a nanocube.
Credit: Chao Wang/Brown University

Two great obstacles to hydrogen-powered vehicles lie with fuel cells. Fuel cells, which like batteries produce electrical power through chemical reactions, have been plagued by their relatively low efficiency and high production costs. Scientists have tested a wide assortment of metals and materials to overcome the twin challenge.

Related Articles


Now a team led by Shouheng Sun, professor of chemistry at Brown, has mastered a Rubik’s Cube-like dilemma for dealing with platinum, a precious metal coveted for its ability to boost a chemical reaction in fuel cells. The team shows that shaping platinum into a cube greatly enhances its efficiency in a phase of the fuel cell’s operation known as oxygen reduction reaction. Sun’s results have been published online in the journal Angewandte Chemie. The paper was selected as a Very Important Paper, a distinction reserved for less than 5 percent of manuscripts submitted to the peer-reviewed journal.

Platinum helps reduce the energy barrier – the amount of energy needed to start a reaction – in the oxidation phase of a fuel cell. It is also seen as beneficial on the other end of the fuel cell, known as the cathode. There, platinum has been shown to assist in oxygen reduction, a process in which electrons peeled from hydrogen atoms join with oxygen atoms to create electrical energy. The reaction also is important because it only produces water. This byproduct – rather than the global warming gas carbon dioxide – is a big reason why hydrogen fuel cells are a tantalizing area of research from automakers in Detroit to policy-makers in Washington.

Scientists, however, have had trouble maximizing platinum’s potential in the oxygen reduction reaction. The barriers chiefly revolve around shape and surface area – geometry and geography, so to speak. What Sun has learned is that molding platinum into a cube on the nanoscale enhances its catalysis – that is, it boosts the rate of a chemical reaction.

“For the first time, we can control the morphology of the particle to make it more like a cube,” Sun said. “People have had very limited control over this process before. Now we have shown it can be done uniformly and consistently.”

During his experiments, Sun, along with Brown graduate engineering student Chao Wang and engineers from the Japanese firm Hitachi Maxwell Ltd., created polyhedron and cube shapes of different sizes by adding platinum acetylacetonate (Pt(acac)2) and a trace amount of iron pentacarbonyl (Fe(CO)5) at specific temperature ranges. The team found that cubes were more efficient catalysts, owing largely to their surface structure and their resistance to being absorbed by the sulfate in the fuel cell solution.

“For this reaction, the shape is more important than the size,” Sun said.

The next step, Sun added, is to build a polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell and test the platinum nanocubes as catalysts in it. The team expects the experiments will yield fuel cells with a higher electrical output than previous versions.

“It’s like science fiction, but we’re a step closer now to the reality of developing a very efficient platinum catalyst for hydrogen cars that produce only water as exhaust,” Sun said.

Hitachi Maxell chemical engineers Hideo Daimon, Taigo Ondera and Tetsunori Koda, a visiting engineer at Brown, contributed to the research.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and by the Office of the Vice President for Research at Brown University through its Research Seed Fund.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Brown University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Brown University. "Platinum Nanocube Makes Hydrogen Fuel Cells Cheaper And More Efficient." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 April 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080418090427.htm>.
Brown University. (2008, April 22). Platinum Nanocube Makes Hydrogen Fuel Cells Cheaper And More Efficient. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080418090427.htm
Brown University. "Platinum Nanocube Makes Hydrogen Fuel Cells Cheaper And More Efficient." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080418090427.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

NASA's First 3-D Printer In Space Creates Its First Object

NASA's First 3-D Printer In Space Creates Its First Object

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) The International Space Station is now using a proof-of-concept 3D printer to test additive printing in a weightless, isolated environment. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) Innovative recycling project in La Paz separates city waste and converts plastic garbage into school furniture made from 'plastiwood'. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Who Will Failed Nuclear Talks Hurt Most?

Who Will Failed Nuclear Talks Hurt Most?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) With no immediate prospect of sanctions relief for Iran, and no solid progress in negotiations with the West over the country's nuclear programme, Ciara Lee asks why talks have still not produced results and what a resolution would mean for both parties. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flying Enthusiast Converts Real-Life Aircraft Cockpit Into Simulator

Flying Enthusiast Converts Real-Life Aircraft Cockpit Into Simulator

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) A virtual flying enthusiast converts parts of a written-off Airbus aircraft into a working flight simulator in his northern Slovenian home. Jim Drury reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins