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Fri12192014

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Nanotechnology institute in Singapore develops advanced fuel cell material

Nanotechnology institute in Singapore develop advanced fuel cell material
Platinum nanoparticles are the common catalyst used in commercially available fuel cells.

Researchers at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore developed a more efficient and longer lasting fuel cell material using a compound of gold, copper and platinum nanoparticles.

They discovered that by replacing the innermost part of the catalyst of the fuel cell with gold and copper alloy while leaving just the outer layer in platinum, the new amalgam can deliver five times higher activity.

Having slightly smaller structure spacing than the platinum coating, the gold-copper alloy creates a compressive tension on the surface platinum atoms. This makes platinum more active in the rate-limiting step of oxygen reduction reaction for the fuel cell.

“With further optimization, it would be possible to further increase the material's catalytic properties,” said the institute.

Platinum nanoparticles are the common catalyst used in commercially available fuel cells, since platinum is the only metal that can defy the extreme acidic condition inside such a cell. However, the prevalent use of fuel cells is being hampered by the high cost of platinum and its low stability. With the new nanocomposite, these constraints can be overcome as it provides a less expensive material and more importantly, a much greater stability.

It can generate no less than 0.571 amperes of electric current per milligram of platinum, versus the 0.109 amperes per milligram of commercial platinum catalysts. Significantly, nanotechnology institute said this is the first time a catalyst demonstrates an ability to improve both the activity and stability for the fuel cell reaction with a substantial reduction in the content of platinum.

Fuel cells can be used as a source of power for electronic devices, vehicles, military aircraft and equipment. They turn chemical energy from hydrogen into electricity through a chemical reaction in the presence of oxygen. As long as there is a fuel supply, they can continuously produce electricity.

“A key research focus at I.B.N. is to develop green energy technologies that can lead to greater efficiency and environmental sustainability. More active and less costly than conventional platinum catalysts, our new nanocomposite system has enabled us to significantly advance fuel cell development and make the technology more practical for industrial applications,” said Professor Jackie Ying, I.B.N. executive director. – C. Dominguez



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