RESEARCH
February 6, 2009

Nitrogen gives nanotube fuel cells a charge

Suffuse carbon nanotubes with nitrogen atoms and you can make fuel cells without platinum or other rare metals.

Dense arrays of vertically-aligned carbon nanotubes doped with nitrogen atoms make more efficient and more stable fuel cell cathodes than standard platinum electrodes. Depending on the manufacturing process, the carbon nanotube arrays could be much less expensive than platinum cathodes. The price of platinum is currently $32 per gram.

The nitrogen atoms give carbon nanotubes a higher charge density than plain carbon nanotubes, which boosts the cathodes' electrochemical activity. Fuel cell cathodes combine oxygen atoms with protons and electrons to produce water in the second half of the fuel cell cycle.

Fuel cells made with nitrogen-doped carbon nanotubes promise to lower fuel cell costs, particularly for vehicle fuel cells.

Research paper:
Nitrogen-Doped Carbon Nanotube Arrays with High Electrocatalytic Activity for Oxygen Reduction
Science, February 6, 2009

Researchers' homepages:
Liming Dai
Zhenhai Xia

Related stories and briefs:
Nickel nixes platinum in plastic fuel cell -- related research
Layers make better nanotube batteries -- related research
Wire generates electricity -- recent work by some of the researchers


Back to ERN February 9/16, 2009

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