Nitrogen-doped carbon nanotubes or modified graphene nanoribbons could be effective, less costly replacements for expensive platinum in fuel cells, according to a new study.
In fuel cells, platinum is used for fast oxygen reduction, the key reaction that transforms chemical energy into electricity.
The findings come from computer simulations scientists created to see how carbon nanomaterials could be improved for fuel-cell cathodes. Their study reveals the atom-level mechanisms by which doped nanomaterials catalyze oxygen reduction reactions (ORR).
Doping with nitrogen
Boris Yakobson, a professor of materials science and nanoengineering and of chemistry at Rice University, and his colleagues are among many researchers looking for a way to speed up ORR for fuel cells, which were discovered in the 19th century but not widely used until the latter part of the 20th. Fuel cells have since powered transportation modes ranging from cars and buses to spacecraft.