Economical non-precious-metal catalyst capitalizes on carbon nanotubes

June 4, 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: Say hello to cheaper hydrogen fuel cells: Scientists document utility of non-precious-metal catalysts

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

Related Stories

As fuel cells evolve, a role emerges for palladium

March 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 into electricity ...

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, Umeå University, ...

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, published in the ...

Recommended for you

Force triggers gene expression by stretching chromatin

August 26, 2016

How genes in our DNA are expressed into traits within a cell is a complicated mystery with many players, the main suspects being chemical. However, a new study by University of Illinois researchers and collaborators in China ...

3-D printed structures that 'remember' their shapes

August 26, 2016

Engineers from MIT and Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) are using light to print three-dimensional structures that "remember" their original shapes. Even after being stretched, twisted, and bent at extreme ...

New method developed for producing some metals

August 25, 2016

The MIT researchers were trying to develop a new battery, but it didn't work out that way. Instead, thanks to an unexpected finding in their lab tests, what they discovered was a whole new way of producing the metal antimony—and ...

New electrical energy storage material shows its power

August 24, 2016

A powerful new material developed by Northwestern University chemist William Dichtel and his research team could one day speed up the charging process of electric cars and help increase their driving range.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.