Fuel cells have been receiving a lot of attention in the scientific domain as one of the most promising alternative energy sources. When applying fuel cell technology to both the grid and automobiles, one issue is persistent: cost. Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory (ANNL) have been looking for a way to combat the price issues. Now, a team of researchers led by ECS member Di-Jia Liu have found a potential way to utilize fuel cells without the high cost of development and commercialization.

A New Catalyst

The team’s development revolves around the notion of using naturally abundant materials without sacrificing efficiency. Current, fuel cells work off a platinum catalyst, which is both expensive and scarce. The new catalyst eliminates the need for the precious material, all while demonstrating performance rates comparable to that of a platinum catalyst.

The scientists developed the new catalyst via the synthesis of a highly efficient, nanofibrous non-precious metal catalyst. If this technique proves to be commercially viable, it transition into automotive technology and extend the range of electric vehicles and potentially eliminate the need for charging.

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FCLabs and manufacturers across the globe are pushing forward in an effort to develop a completely clean hydrogen-powered car. Whether it’s through the plotting of more fueling stations or new vehicle prototypes, many manufactures are hoping to bring this concept into reality soon.

However, there is still one very important aspect missing – the science and technology to produce the best and most efficient hydrogen fuel cell.

In ACS Central Science, two teams have independently reported developments in this field that may be able to get us one step closer to a practical hydrogen-powered car.

ICYMI: Listen to our podcast with Subhash C. Singhal, a world-leader in fuel cell research.

The catalysts currently used to produce the proper chemical reaction for hydrogen and oxygen to create energy is currently too expensive or just demands too much energy to be efficient. For this reason, these two teams – led by Yi Cui at Sanford University, and combining the scientific prowess of James Gerken and Shannon Stahl at the University of Wisconsin, Madison – are seeking a new material that could cause the same reaction at a lower price point and higher efficiency.

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Printable Functional Materials

Potential technical applications of printable functional inks.

The videos and information in this post relate to an ECS Journal of Solid State Science and Technology focus issue called: Printable Functional Materials for Electronics and Energy Applications.

(Read/download the focus issue now. It’s entirely free.)

Printing technologies in an atmospheric environment offer the potential for low-cost and materials-efficient alternatives for manufacturing electronics and energy devices such as luminescent displays, thin-film transistors, sensors, thin-film photovoltaics, fuel cells, capacitors, and batteries. Significant progress has been made in the area of printable functional organic and inorganic materials including conductors, semiconductors, and dielectric and luminescent materials.

These new printable functional materials have and will continue to enable exciting advances in printed electronics and energy devices. Some examples are printed amorphous oxide semiconductors, organic conductors and semiconductors, inorganic semiconductor nanomaterials, silicon, chalcogenide semiconductors, ceramics, metals, intercalation compounds, and carbon-based materials.

A special focus issue of the ECS Journal of Solid State Science and Technology was created about the publication of state-of-the-art efforts that address a variety of approaches to printable functional materials and device. This focus issue, consisting of a total of 15 papers, includes both invited and contributed papers reflecting recent achievements in printable functional materials and devices.

The topics of these papers span several key ECS technical areas, including batteries, sensors, fuel cells, carbon nanostructures and devices, electronic and photonic devices, and display materials, devices, and processing. The overall collection of this focus issue covers an impressive scope from fundamental science and engineering of printing process, ink chemistry and ink conversion processes, printed devices, and characterizations to the future outlook for printable functional materials and devices.

The video below demonstrates Printed Metal Oxide Thin-Film Transistors by J. Gorecki, K. Eyerly, C.-H. Choi, and C.-H. Chang, School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering, Oregon State University.

Step-by-step explanation of the video:

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Printable Functional Materials

Potential technical applications of printable functional inks.

The video and information in this post relate to an ECS Journal of Solid State Science and Technology focus issue called: Printable Functional Materials for Electronics and Energy Applications.

(Read/download the focus issue now. It’s entirely free.)

Printing technologies in an atmospheric environment offer the potential for low-cost and materials-efficient alternatives for manufacturing electronics and energy devices such as luminescent displays, thin-film transistors, sensors, thin-film photovoltaics, fuel cells, capacitors, and batteries. Significant progress has been made in the area of printable functional organic and inorganic materials including conductors, semiconductors, and dielectric and luminescent materials.

These new printable functional materials have and will continue to enable exciting advances in printed electronics and energy devices. Some examples are printed amorphous oxide semiconductors, organic conductors and semiconductors, inorganic semiconductor nanomaterials, silicon, chalcogenide semiconductors, ceramics, metals, intercalation compounds, and carbon-based materials.

A special focus issue of the ECS Journal of Solid State Science and Technology was created about the publication of state-of-the-art efforts that address a variety of approaches to printable functional materials and device. This focus issue, consisting of a total of 15 papers, includes both invited and contributed papers reflecting recent achievements in printable functional materials and devices.

The topics of these papers span several key ECS technical areas, including batteries, sensors, fuel cells, carbon nanostructures and devices, electronic and photonic devices, and display materials, devices, and processing. The overall collection of this focus issue covers an impressive scope from fundamental science and engineering of printing process, ink chemistry and ink conversion processes, printed devices, and characterizations to the future outlook for printable functional materials and devices.

The video below show demonstrates Inkjet Printed Conductive Tracks for Printed Electronic conducted by S.-P. Chen, H.-L. Chiu, P.-H. Wang, and Y.-C. Liao, Department of Chemical Engineering, National Taiwan University, No. 1 Sec. 4 Roosevelt Road, Taipei 10617, Taiwan.

Step-by-step explanation of the video:

For printed electronic devices, metal thin film patterns with great conductivities are required. Three major ways to produce inkjet-printed metal tracks will be shown in this video.

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Breaking Dependence on Fossil Fuels

Abruna_Hector_D“You’re not going to solve the energy problem by separating paper and plastic. We need to transition out of our dependency on fossil fuels and into renewables. As a society, it is really up to us to change.”

ECS Fellow Héctor D. Abruña recently spoke on the importance of developing better batteries to change the energy landscape at a Charter Day Weekend lecture at Cornell University.

The energy infrastructure as it exists today cannot maintain in its current form in the years to come. The United Nations expects the world’s population to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. Compare this to the current 7.2 billion population and the current issues with the energy infrastructure and the need for change becomes quite apparent.

Fortunately, Abruña and scientists like him are working to move us toward a more energy efficient and sustainable future through developments in fuel cells and batteries, which will power energy efficient and environmentally safe cars, as well as reshape the energy infrastructure itself.

“If we have any hope of solving the energy problems, we need better energy conversion and storage,” said Abruña.

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Member Spotlight – Luke Haverhals

What better day than Earth Day to highlight the work of ECS member Luke Haverhals, an assistant professor at Bradley University working in novel types of energy storage and conversion through the utilization of renewable, sustainable substrates such as hemp, wood, and silk.

Haverhals is a former student of current ECS 3rd Vice-President Johna Leddy. Since departing from Leddy and the University of Iowa, Haverhals has worked in an area focused on wielding natural fibers using ionic liquids (i.e. enhanced energy conversion devices).

Ionic liquids have been gaining much notoriety lately, with potential game changing electrolytes for energy conversion devices ranging from batteries to fuel cells.

Make sure to join Haverhals and other scientists pioneering world-changing research by joining ECS today and attending our upcoming scientific meeting!

Earth Day: Science, Climate, and the Future

The modern environmental movement was born 45 years ago today. A small group of twenty-somethings with a passion for the environment rallied together to create a more earth-conscious society, establishing what has become known as Earth Day.

The original Earth Day focused primarily on the pollution issue, but this year’s Earth Day is heavily directed towards climate change and the energy infrastructure.

While there may be a war on science happening with people and politicians alike dismissing climate change as mere myth, scientists conducting research in the field state that evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.

When looking at climate change on a global level, the numbers speak for themselves.

  • Carbon dioxide levels are at their highest in 650,000 years
  • Nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000
  • Land ice is dropping by 258 billion metric tons per year
  • Sea levels have risen nearly 7” over the past 100 years

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Biofuels to Fuel Cells Short Course

ECS will be offering three Short Courses at the 227th ECS Meeting this May in Chicago. Taught by industry experts, the small class size makes for an excellent opportunity for personalized instruction helping both novices and experts advance their technical expertise and knowledge.

Register online today!

Short Course #1
Nanotechnology for Bioenergy: Biofuels to Fuel Cells
Shelley D. Minteer, Instructor

This course is perfect for those with an interest in biofuels and renewable energy. Attendees can expect to learn about the production and use of biofuels, the advances in synthetic biology that have improved biofuel production, advance sin ananotechnology that have improved electrochemical biofuel production, electrochemical uses of biofuel, and more—including fuel cells, enzmatic biofuel cells, and microbial biofuel cells. Read more.

Minteer_Shelley_2013About the Instructor
Dr. Shelley D. Minteer is most well known for her contributions to the use of catalytic cascades for anodic electrocatlaysis. In 2003, Professor Minteer co-founded Akermin, Inc. with her previous graduate student, which has focused on the commercialization of her biofuel cell technology and has moved on to carbon capture technology. Her roles with ECS have included: Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary-Treasurer, and Member-at-Large of the Physical and Analytical Electrochemistry Division, as well as being a member of multiple other Society committees. She is currently the technical editor for the Journal of The Electrochemical Society and ECS Electrochemistry Letters.

Cobalt Film Produces Clean Fuel

The lab fabricated the 500-nanometer films by anodyzing a cobalt film electrodeposited on a substrate.Image: Rice University

The lab fabricated the 500-nanometer films by anodizing a cobalt film electrodeposited on a substrate.
Image: Rice University

Researchers from Rice University have discovered an efficient, robust way of drawing hydrogen and oxygen from water.

The researchers have developed a new catalyst of a cobalt-based thin film, which pumps out hydrogen and oxygen to feed fuel cells.

This from Rice University:

The inexpensive, highly porous material invented by the Rice lab of chemist James Tour may have advantages as a catalyst for the production of hydrogen via water electrolysis. A single film far thinner than a hair can be used as both the anode and cathode in an electrolysis device.

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ECS Podcast – Subhash C. Singhal of PNNL

This week we’re sitting down with Subhash C. Singhal of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), a world leader in the study of solid oxide fuel cells and one of the lead organizer of our upcoming Glasgow conference. Listen as we explore the culture of national laboratories and industry, the future of solid oxide fuel cells, Singhal’s upbringing in India, and more!

Listen below and download this episode and others for free though the iTunes Store (search “ECS Podcast”), SoundCloud, or our RSS Feed.

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