A*STAR researchers believe gold nanoparticles can improve fuel cellsSeptember 1, 2012
A*STAR develops new imaging method to examine gold nanoparticles
Researchers from Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology, and Research (A*STAR) have developed a new imaging technique that allows them to closely examine fuel cell catalysts. There have been several breakthroughs in this sector recently, with scientists around the world developing new methods to improve catalysts and the materials use to make them. Using this new imaging method, A*STAR researchers have discovered subtle, atomic-scale structural transformations that are capable of activating and de-activating gold nanoparticles. Manipulating these particles could improve the longevity of hydrogen fuel cells.
Hydrogen flawed by impurities
When hydrogen is produced within a fuel cell, it is often tainted with carbon monoxide. The presence of carbon monoxide, as well as other impurities, often have an adverse impact on the performance of fuel cells and significantly reduce their longevity. Reducing the impurities that exist in hydrogen gas is considered a viable way to improve the lifespan of these energy systems. A*STAR researchers have found that gold nanoparticles used in a catalyst may be able to remove the impurities that exist in hydrogen gas, thus improving the performance of fuel cells.
Gold nanoparticles could hold the key to hydrogen purification
Ziyi Zhong of the A*STAR Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences believes that this breakthrough could lead to the development of on-board hydrogen processing systems for fuel cells. These systems could purify hydrogen fuel and make the energy more viable for uses in transportation and industry. There is a significant problem with gold nanoparticles, however. Research has shown that the particles tend to lose their catalytic activity after a short period of time. This problem will have to be overcome if these particles are to play a role in the future of hydrogen fuel.
Research to continue with focus on improving fuel cells
A*STAR researchers will continue to experiment with gold nanoparticles, using the imaging technique they have developed to better understand their catalytic reactions. This research may eventually lead to the development of more efficient and powerful catalysts, which would make fuel cells a more attractive energy system and alternative to fossil-fuels.