Monday, May 08, 2006

Progress in Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Hydrogen gas combines well with oxygen gas inside hydrogen fuel cells for efficient electricity generation. Unfortunately, hydrogen gas is unwieldy to carry in an automobile, and not very energy dense. Liquid fuels are much better fuel for transportation applications, than hydrogen gas. Using methanol or ethanol might be ideal if the proper catalysts could be found.

Scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Idaho have developed a highly efficient catalyst of multi-walled carbon nanotubes decorated with tiny particles of a platinum and ruthenium composite. Preparation is a key factor in determining the activity of a catalyst.

The researchers selected a process using supercritical carbon dioxide, which has the properties of a gas and a liquid. The supercritical fluid technology may result in products and processes that are cleaner, less expensive and of higher quality than those produced using conventional solvents.

The technology also is easily manipulated to allow a fine degree of control and is easily separated from the catalyst. Moreover, it is nontoxic, which could improve worker safety and reduce environmental impacts.

PNNL scientist Yuehe Lin will discuss “Pt and Pt-Ru/Carbon Nanotube Nanocomposites Synthesized in Supercritical Fluid as Electrocatalysts for Low-Temperature Fuel Cells” at NSTI Nanotechnology Conference, May 7-11, Boston.

Very clever to decorate carbon nanotubes with nano-particles of platinum and ruthenium. An excellent way to maximise surface area, what?

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