Cornell researchers devise new method to make metal materials for fuel cells and batteries

Cornell researchers devise new method to make metal materials for fuel cells and batteries

April 5, 2012 0 By Stephen Vagus

Is there a new way to feed hydrogen fuel cell technology?

Cornell University research in hydrogen fuel cell

Chemists at Cornell University have developed a new way to make metals that can be used to make catalysts for hydrogen fuel cells and electrodes for lithium-ion batteries. Engineers from the university have created porous metal films using this new method that are 1,000 times more conductive than other metal materials. These metals are comprised of nanostructures that help them catch and utilize chemicals that come their way. Researchers say that this new method has given them higher levels of control over the metals they produce.

The metals made using this method can replace the platinum catalysts found in most fuel cells. These catalysts are an expensive, but vital component to fuel cells and are part of the reason why fuel cells have been met with disdain from the business world. Part of the problem with these catalysts is their efficiency; a problem that Cornell researchers say can be solved using their new metal-making method.

The method augments a process known to chemists as the “sol-gel process.” This refers to the bonding of silicon compounds and metal ions. These bonds are then spaced apart using nanostructures to create pores. These structures can conduct electricity very efficiently, making them ideal for use in fuel cells and batteries. Researchers have had trouble making the method work well with the sol-gel process, as adding excessive amounts of metal disrupts the process entirely.

Cornell University research was funded by the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.