Washington State University researchers have developed a novel nanomaterial that could improve the performance and lower the costs of fuel cells by using fewer precious metals like platinum or palladium.
Led by Yuehe Lin, professor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, the researchers used inexpensive metal to make a super low density material, called an aerogel, to reduce the amount of precious metals required for fuel cell reactions. They also sped up the time to make the aerogels, which makes them more viable for large-scale production.
Their work is published in Advanced Materials (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/
Hydrogen fuel cells are a promising green energy solution, producing electricity much more efficiently and cleanly than combustion engines. But they need expensive precious metals to fuel their chemical reactions. This need has limited their acceptance in the marketplace.
Aerogels, which are sometimes also called liquid smoke, are solid materials that are about 92 percent air. Effective insulators, they are used in wet suits, firefighting gear, windows, paints and in fuel cell catalysts. Because metal-based aerogels have large surface areas and are highly porous, they work well for catalyzing in fuel cells.
The WSU team created a series of bimetallic aerogels, incorporating inexpensive copper and using less precious metal than other metal aerogels.
Researchers introduced the copper in the bimetallic system through their new, one-step reduction method to create hydrogel. The hydrogel is the liquid-filled form of aerogel. The liquid component is carefully and completely dried out of the hydrogel to create aerogel. Their method has reduced the manufacturing time of hydrogel from three days to six hours.
“This will be a great advantage for large scale production,” said Chengzhou Zhu, a WSU assistant research professor who created the aerogel.
New fuel cell system is the first of its kind
A team of scientists from the Iowa State University have, for the first time, developed a microbial fuel cell that is not reliant on external power to operate. The new fuel cell is the first of its kind and could have major implications for the fuel cell industry as a whole in the future. The energy system currently exists in a proof-of-concept stage, but has shown significant promise in its ability to generate electricity.
Microbial fuel cells could be viable energy systems for those interested in clean energy
Inspired by the humble cactus, a new type of membrane has the potential to significantly boost the performance of fuel cells and transform the electric vehicle industry.
The membrane, developed by scientists from CSIRO and Hanyang University in Korea, was described today in the journal Nature . The paper shows that in hot conditions the membrane, which features a water repellent skin, can improve the efficiency of fuel cells by a factor of four.
According to CSIRO researcher and co-author Dr Aaron Thornton, the skin works in a similar way to a cactus plant, which thrives by retaining water in harsh and arid environments.
“Fuel cells, like the ones used in electric vehicles, generate energy by mixing together simple gases, like hydrogen and oxygen. However, in order to maintain performance, proton exchange membrane fuel cells – or PEMFCs – need to stay constantly hydrated,” Dr Thornton said.
“At the moment this is achieved by placing the cells alongside a radiator, water reservoir and a humidifier. The downside is that when used in a vehicle, these occupy a large amount of space and consume significant power,” he said.
According to CSIRO researcher and co-author Dr Cara Doherty, the team’s new cactus-inspired solution offers an alternative