January 30, 2009

Nano metals brighten prospects for ethanol fuel cells

Combine the right metals in the right nanostructures and you can generate carbon dioxide from ethanol, potentially making ethanol fuel cells commercially viable.

Catalysts developed by separate research teams efficiently oxidize ethanol to generate carbon dioxide. One catalyst is platinum, nickel and ruthenium nanoparticles on a titanium oxide film filled with nanoscale pores that oxidizes ethanol in sunlight. The other catalyst is tin oxide nanoparticles sprinkled with platinum and rhodium atoms on a carbon surface that oxidizes ethanol using small amounts of electricity.

Ethanol can be made from renewable sources and has a high energy density, but generating carbon dioxide from ethanol has been difficult, which has limited its use in fuel cells. Practical direct ethanol fuel cells could improve the prospects for fuel cell vehicles.

Research papers:
Anode Catalysts for Direct Ethanol Fuel Cells Utilizing Directly Solar Light Illumination
ChemSusChem, published online January 28, 2009
Ternary Pt/Rh/SnO2 Electrocatalysts for Oxidizing Ethanol to CO2
Nature Materials, published online January 25, 2009

Researchers' homepages:
Zhaowu Tian
Andrzej Kowal
Kotaro Sasaki
Miomir Vukmirovic
Ping Liu
Anatoly Frenkel
Radoslav Adzic

Related stories and briefs:
Cheap catalyst makes hydrogen from biofuel -- related research

Back to ERN February 9/16, 2009



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