Economical non-precious-metal catalyst capitalizes on carbon nanotubes

Jun 04, 2013
This is a high-resolution microscopic image of a new type of nanostructured-carbon-based catalyst developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory that could pave the way for reliable, economical next-generation batteries and alkaline fuel cells. Credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory

(Phys.org) —Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists have designed a new type of nanostructured-carbon-based catalyst that could pave the way for reliable, economical next-generation batteries and alkaline fuel cells, providing for practical use of wind- and solar-powered electricity, as well as enhanced hybrid electric vehicles.

In a paper appearing recently in Nature Communications, Los Alamos researchers Hoon T. Chung, Piotr Zelenay and Jong H. Won, the latter now at the Korea Basic Science Institute, describe a new type of nitrogen-doped carbon-nanotube catalyst. The new material has the highest oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) activity in alkaline media of any non-precious developed to date. This activity is critical for efficient storage of electrical energy.

The new catalyst doesn't use such as platinum, which is more expensive per ounce than gold, yet it performs under certain conditions as effectively as many well-known and prohibitively expensive precious-metal catalysts developed for battery and use. Moreover, although the catalyst is based on nitrogen-containing carbon nanotubes, it does not require the tedious, toxic and costly processing that is usually required when converting such materials for catalytic use.

"These findings could help forge a path between nanostructured-carbon-based materials and alkaline fuel cells, metal-air batteries and certain electrolyzers," said Zelenay. "A lithium-air secondary battery, potentially the most-promising metal-air battery known, has an potential that is 10 times greater than a state-of-the-art lithium-ion battery. Consequently, the new catalyst makes possible the creation of economical lithium-air batteries that could power electric vehicles, or provide efficient, reliable energy storage for intermittent sources of green energy, such as windmills or solar panels."

The scientists developed an ingenious method for synthesizing the new catalyst using readily available chemicals that allow preparation of the material in a single step. They also demonstrated that the synthesis method can be scaled up to larger volumes and could also be used to prepare other -based materials.

Explore further: High-efficiency zinc-air battery developed

More information: The paper describing the breakthrough can be found here: www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/v4/n5/full/ncomms2944.html

Related Stories

High-efficiency zinc-air battery developed

May 29, 2013

Stanford University scientists have developed an advanced zinc-air battery with higher catalytic activity and durability than similar batteries made with costly platinum and iridium catalysts. The results, ...

As fuel cells evolve, a role emerges for palladium

Mar 18, 2013

(Phys.org) —Researchers at Yale University have taken another step toward the development of low-temperature, lower-cost alkaline fuel cells, which are battery-like devices that convert oxygen and hydrogen ...

Charge your mobile phone with formic acid?

May 27, 2013

(Phys.org) —Surprisingly the answer is yes. With the technology of today it is possible to use environmental friendly formic acid in fuel cell powering your mobile phone or laptop. Physicist Florian Nitze, ...

Recommended for you

A greener source of polyester—cork trees

3 hours ago

On the scale of earth-friendly materials, you'd be hard pressed to find two that are farther apart than polyester (not at all) and cork (very). In an unexpected twist, however, scientists are figuring out ...

A beautiful, peculiar molecule

6 hours ago

"Carbon is peculiar," said Nobel laureate Sir Harold Kroto. "More peculiar than you think." He was speaking to a standing-room-only audience that filled the Raytheon Amphitheater on Monday afternoon for the ...

Metals go from strength to strength

Apr 15, 2014

To the human hand, metal feels hard, but at the nanoscale it is surprisingly malleable. Push a lump of metal with brute force through a right-angle mould or die, and while it might look much the same to the ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Breakthrough points to new drugs from nature

Researchers at Griffith University's Eskitis Institute have developed a new technique for discovering natural compounds which could form the basis of novel therapeutic drugs.

A greener source of polyester—cork trees

On the scale of earth-friendly materials, you'd be hard pressed to find two that are farther apart than polyester (not at all) and cork (very). In an unexpected twist, however, scientists are figuring out ...

How kids' brain structures grow as memory develops

Our ability to store memories improves during childhood, associated with structural changes in the hippocampus and its connections with prefrontal and parietal cortices. New research from UC Davis is exploring ...

Gate for bacterial toxins found

Prof. Dr. Dr. Klaus Aktories and Dr. Panagiotis Papatheodorou from the Institute of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology of the University of Freiburg have discovered the receptor responsible ...