Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Longest Nanowires Ever Made May Lead To Better Fuel Cells

Date:
March 18, 2009
Source:
University of Rochester
Summary:
Researchers are reporting production of the longest platinum nanowires ever made — an advance that they say could speed development of fuel cells for cars, trucks, and other everyday uses. The wires, 1/50,000 the width of a human hair, are thousands of times longer than any previously made, according to a report in Nano Letters. The creation of long platinum nanowires could soon lead to the development of commercially viable fuel cells by providing significant increases in both the longevity and efficiency of fuel cells.

'Electron microscope view of platinum nanowires with beads.'
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Rochester

Researchers from New York are reporting production of the longest platinum nanowires ever made — an advance that they say could speed development of fuel cells for cars, trucks, and other everyday uses. The wires, 1/50,000 the width of a human hair, are thousands of times longer than any previously made, according to a report in Nano Letters.

The creation of long platinum nanowires at the University of Rochester could soon lead to the development of commercially viable fuel cells.

Described in a paper published March 11 in the journal Nano Letters, the new wires should provide significant increases in both the longevity and efficiency of fuel cells, which have until now been used largely for such exotic purposes as powering spacecraft. Nanowire enhanced fuel cells could power many types of vehicles, helping reduce the use of petroleum fuels for transportation, according to lead author James C. M. Li, professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Rochester.

"People have been working on developing fuel cells for decades. But the technology is still not being commercialized," says Li. "Platinum is expensive, and the standard approach for using it in fuel cells is far from ideal. These nanowires are a key step toward better solutions."

The platinum nanowires produced by Li and his graduate student Jianglan Shui are roughly ten nanometers in diameter and also centimeters in length—long enough to create the first self-supporting "web" of pure platinum that can serve as an electrode in a fuel cell.

Much shorter nanowires have already been used in a variety of technologies, such as nanocomputers and nanoscale sensors. By a process known as electrospinning—a technique used to produce long, ultra-thin solid fibers—Li and Shui were able to create platinum nanowires that are thousands of times longer than any previous such wires.

"Our ultimate purpose is to make free-standing fuel cell catalysts from these nanowires," says Li.

Within a fuel cell the catalyst facilitates the reaction of hydrogen and oxygen, splitting compressed hydrogen fuel into electrons and acidic hydrogen ions. Electrons are then routed through an external circuit to supply power, while the hydrogen ions combine with electrons and oxygen to form the "waste" product, typically liquid or vaporous water.

Platinum has been the primary material used in making fuel cell catalysts because of its ability to withstand the harsh acidic environment inside the fuel cell. Its energy efficiency is also substantially greater than that of cheaper metals like nickel.

Prior efforts in making catalysts have relied heavily on platinum nanoparticles in order to maximize the exposed surface area of platinum. The basic idea is simple: The greater the surface area, the greater the efficiency. Li cites two main problems with the nanoparticle approach, both linked to the high cost of platinum.

First, individual particles, despite being solid, can touch one another and merge through the process of surface diffusion, combining to reduce their total surface area and energy. As surface area decreases, so too does the rate of catalysis inside the fuel cell.

Second, nanoparticles require a carbon support structure to hold them in place. Unfortunately, platinum particles do not attach particularly well to these structures, and carbon is subject to oxidization, and thus degradation. As the carbon oxidizes over time, more and more particles become dislodged and are permanently lost.

Li's nanowires avoid these problems completely.

With platinum arranged into a series of centimeter long, flexible, and uniformly thin wires, the particles comprising them are fixed in place and need no additional support. Platinum will no longer be lost during normal fuel cell operation.

"The reason people have not come to nanowires before is that it's very hard to make them," says Li. "The parameters affecting the morphology of the wires are complex. And when they are not sufficiently long, they behave the same as nanoparticles."

One of the key challenges Li and Shui managed to overcome was reducing the formation of platinum beads along the nanowires. Without optimal conditions, instead of a relatively smooth wire, you end up with what looks more like a series of interspersed beads on a necklace. Such bunching together of platinum particles is another case of unutilized surface area.

"With platinum being so costly, it's quite important that none of it goes to waste when making a fuel cell," says Li. "We studied five variables that affect bead formation and we finally got it—nanowires that are almost bead free."

His current objective is to further optimize laboratory conditions to obtain fewer beads and even longer, more uniformly thin nanowires. "After that, we're going to make a fuel cell and demonstrate this technology," says Li.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Jianglan Shui and James C. M. Li. Platinum Nanowires Produced by Electrospinning. Nano Letters, Online March 4, 2009 DOI: 10.1021/nl802910h

Cite This Page:

University of Rochester. "Longest Nanowires Ever Made May Lead To Better Fuel Cells." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090311153412.htm>.
University of Rochester. (2009, March 18). Longest Nanowires Ever Made May Lead To Better Fuel Cells. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090311153412.htm
University of Rochester. "Longest Nanowires Ever Made May Lead To Better Fuel Cells." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090311153412.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Government Approves East Coast Oil Exploration

Government Approves East Coast Oil Exploration

AP (July 18, 2014) The Obama administration approved the use of sonic cannons to discover deposits under the ocean floor by shooting sound waves 100 times louder than a jet engine through waters shared by endangered whales and turtles. (July 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sunken German U-Boat Clearly Visible For First Time

Sunken German U-Boat Clearly Visible For First Time

Newsy (July 18, 2014) The wreckage of the German submarine U-166 has become clearly visible for the first time since it was discovered in 2001. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: U.S. Must Have "smartest Airports, Best Power Grid"

Obama: U.S. Must Have "smartest Airports, Best Power Grid"

Reuters - US Online Video (July 17, 2014) President Barak Obama stopped by at a lunch counter in Delaware before making remarks about boosting the nation's infrastructure. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Crude Oil Prices Bounce Back After Falling Below $100 a Barrel

Crude Oil Prices Bounce Back After Falling Below $100 a Barrel

TheStreet (July 16, 2014) Oil Futures are bouncing back after tumbling below $100 a barrel for the first time since May yesterday. Jeff Grossman is the president of BRG Brokerage and trades at the NYMEX. Grossman tells TheStreet the Middle East is always a concern for oil traders. Oil prices were pushed down in recent weeks on Libya increasing its production. Supply disruptions in Iraq fading also contributed to prices falling. News from China's economic front showing a growth for the second quarter also calmed fears on its slowdown. Jeff Grossman talks to TheStreet's Susannah Lee on this and more on the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration (EIA) report. Video provided by TheStreet
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:
from the past week

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