Platinum-rich shell, platinum-poor core

October 23, 2007

Hydrogen fuel cells will power the automobiles of the future; however, they have so far suffered from being insufficiently competitive. At the University of Houston, Texas, USA, a team led by Peter Strasser has now developed a new class of electrocatalyst that could help to improve the capacity of fuel cells. The active phase of the catalyst consists of nanoparticles with a platinum-rich shell and a core made of an alloy of copper, cobalt, and platinum. This catalyst demonstrates the highest activity yet observed for the reduction of oxygen.

Hydrogen fuel cells are a tamed version of the explosive reaction that occurs between oxygen and hydrogen gases to form water. To allow the reaction to proceed gently and the energy released to be tapped in the form of an electrical current, the reactants are separated within the fuel cell, and each half-reaction occurs in its own chamber. In one half-cell, oxygen takes up electrons from an electrode (reduction); in the other, hydrogen gas gives up electrons (oxidation). The cells are linked by a polymer electrolyte membrane, across which exchange occurs.

To get the reaction to proceed, the electrodes must be catalytic. For decades, the material of choice for the electrode in the oxygen half-reaction has been the precious metal platinum. Now, Strasser and his team have developed a new material, an alloy of platinum, copper, and cobalt that is deposited onto carbon supports in the form of nanoparticles. The active catalytic phase is formed in situ: when a cyclic alternating current is applied to the electrode, the less precious metals, especially the copper, on the surface of the nanoparticles separate from the alloy. This process results in nanoparticles with a core made of the original copper-rich alloy and a shell containing almost exclusively platinum.

"The oxygen-reducing activity of our new electrocatalytic material is unsurpassed--it is four to five times higher than that of pure platinum. In addition, we have demonstrated how to incorporate and activate this material in situ in a fuel cell," says Strasser. The observed increase in surface area of the nanoparticles is not enough to explain the increased activity. Strasser suspects that special altered structural characteristics of the surface play a role. Although the surface consists mostly of platinum, the distances between the platinum atoms on the particle surface seem to be shorter than those in pure platinum. This compression can be stabilized by the alloy core, which shows even shorter Pt-Pt distances because of the presence of copper and cobalt. In addition, the copper-rich core seems to influence the electronic properties of the platinum shell. Theoretical calculations have suggested that the oxygen can thus bind optimally to the particle surface, allowing it to be more easily reduced.
-end-
Autor: Peter Strasser, University of Houston (USA), http://www.chee.uh.edu/faculty/strasser/
Title: Efficient Oxygen Reduction Fuel Cell Electrocatalysis on Voltammetrically Dealloyed Pt-Cu-Co Nanoparticles
Angewandte Chemie International Edition, doi: 10.1002/anie.200703331

Wiley

Related Nanoparticles Articles from Brightsurf:

An ionic forcefield for nanoparticles
Nanoparticles are promising drug delivery tools but they struggle to get past the immune system's first line of defense: proteins in the blood serum that tag potential invaders.

Phytoplankton disturbed by nanoparticles
Products derived from nanotechnology are efficient and highly sought-after, yet their effects on the environment are still poorly understood.

How to get more cancer-fighting nanoparticles to where they are needed
University of Toronto Engineering researchers have discovered a dose threshold that greatly increases the delivery of cancer-fighting drugs into a tumour.

Nanoparticles: Acidic alert
Researchers of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have synthesized nanoparticles that can be induced by a change in pH to release a deadly dose of ionized iron within cells.

3D reconstructions of individual nanoparticles
Want to find out how to design and build materials atom by atom?

Directing nanoparticles straight to tumors
Modern anticancer therapies aim to attack tumor cells while sparing healthy tissue.

Sweet nanoparticles trick kidney
Researchers engineer tiny particles with sugar molecules to prevent side effect in cancer therapy.

A megalibrary of nanoparticles
Using straightforward chemistry and a mix-and-match, modular strategy, researchers have developed a simple approach that could produce over 65,000 different types of complex nanoparticles.

Dialing up the heat on nanoparticles
Rapid progress in the field of metallic nanotechnology is sparking a science revolution that is likely to impact all areas of society, according to professor of physics Ventsislav Valev and his team at the University of Bath in the UK.

Illuminating the world of nanoparticles
Scientists at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) have developed a light-based device that can act as a biosensor, detecting biological substances in materials; for example, harmful pathogens in food samples.

Read More: Nanoparticles News and Nanoparticles Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.