A*STAR targets nanoparticles and catalysts with new computing method

A*STAR targets nanoparticles and catalysts with new computing method

November 12, 2012 0 By Tami Hood

Nanotechnology nanoparticles

A*STAR develops new computing method to delve deeper into the world of catalysts and nanotechnology

In the world of hydrogen fuel, catalyst play an important role. These are vital components of fuel cell energy systems and are most often comprised of platinum. Catalysts allow for the electrochemical breakdown of water, thus creating hydrogen, which is then used to generate electricity. Traditional platinum catalysts are highly expensive, however, making the attractiveness of fuel cell energy systems very limited. Nanotechnology may hold the key to this problem, especially with the help of a new computing method developed by the A*STAR Institute of High Performance Computing.

Nanoparticles could hold the key to affordable fuel cells

Nanoparticles have been getting a great deal of attention for their use in making new catalysts for fuel cells. Bimetallic nano-alloys, such as platinum and palladium, have been shown to increase the production of hydrogen gas within a fuel cell. By combining metallic materials, researchers can bring a wide array of benefits to fuel cells, but because of the massive number of possible combinations available through this practice, it can be difficult to find the right mix for a fuel cell.

A*STAR method allows for the manipulation of atomic structures

Teck Leong Tan of A*STAR has developed a computing technique that can help identify the ways in which a nanoparticle’s atomic structure can be tweaked to improve the performance of catalysts. In this way, researchers would not have to spend exorbitant amounts of time discovering new combinations of bimetallic materials, and instead adjust the atomic structure of already existing nanoparticles to make better catalysts. Tan notes that this approach could be used with any alloy system where structures and stability is a top interest.

Better catalysts expected to boost popularity of fuel cells

Fuel cells are somewhat popular energy systems, but their popularity pales in comparison to that of solar and wind energy. This is largely due to the high cost of fuel cell production, much of which trickles down to the consumer. Catalysts are largely responsible for the high cost of fuel cells. By producing more affordable and efficient catalysts, fuel cells may become a more attractive energy system for numerous industries.