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Two-faced materials boost hydrogen production

September 12, 2012 9:48 am | News | Comments

Though costly to produce, hydrogen is crucial for the oil-refining industry and the production of essential chemicals such as the ammonia used in fertilizers. The recent invention of a new photocatalyst may help the efficiency of this process. Nanometer-scale “Janus” structures consisting of cheap metal and oxide spheres were recently demonstrated as an excellent catalyst for a hydrogen-production reaction powered only by sunlight.

Researchers set world record for highest surface area material

September 10, 2012 5:35 am | News | Comments

Northwestern University researchers have broken a world record by creating two new synthetic materials with the greatest amount of surface areas reported to date. Named NU-109 and NU-110, the materials belong to a class of crystalline nanostructure known as metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) that are promising vessels for natural gas storage for vehicles, catalysts, and other sustainable materials chemistry.

New nanoparticle to turn yard waste into biofuel

September 5, 2012 4:43 am | News | Comments

A team of researchers has recently been successful in synthesizing and characterizing monodisperse gold-core silver-shell nanoparticles utilizing a bio-template that has potential as a water soluble catalyst for converting biomass such as dead trees, branches and tree stumps, yard clippings, wood chips, and even municipal solid waste into fuels.


Showing the way to improved water-splitting catalysts

September 4, 2012 5:05 am | News | Comments

Scientists and engineers are working to find a way to power the planet using solar-powered fuel cells. Such green systems would split water during daylight hours, generating hydrogen that could then be stored and used later to produce water and electricity. But robust catalysts are needed to drive the water-splitting reaction. Chemists at Caltech have determined the dominant mechanism for cobalt catalysts, a cheaper alternative to platinum catalysts.

New imaging technique homes in on electrocatalysis of nanoparticles

August 28, 2012 5:20 am | News | Comments

By modifying the rate at which chemical reactions take place, nanoparticle catalysts fulfill myriad roles in industry, the biomedical arena, and everyday life. Finding new and more effective nanoparticle catalysts to perform applications in these areas has become vital. Now, a researcher at Arizona State University has found a clever way to measure catalytical reactions of single nanoparticles and multiple particles printed in arrays, which will help to characterize and improve existing nanoparticle catalysts.

Scientists produce hydrogen for fuel cells using inexpensive catalyst

August 23, 2012 7:01 am | News | Comments

Scientists at the University of Cambridge have produced hydrogen, a renewable energy source, from water using an inexpensive catalyst under industrially relevant conditions—using pH neutral water, surrounded by atmospheric oxygen, and at room temperature.

Engineers damage graphene to make batteries perform far better

August 21, 2012 5:58 am | News | Comments

After making a sheet of “paper” from the world’s thinnest material, graphene, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute scientists zapped it with a laser. The light blemished the ultrathin paper with countless cracks, pores, and other imperfections. The result is a graphene anode material that can be charged or discharged 10 times faster than conventional graphite anodes used in today’s lithium-ion batteries.

Catalyst could improve production of glass alternatives

August 21, 2012 3:30 am | News | Comments

University of Oregon chemists have identified a catalyst that could dramatically reduce the amount of waste made in the production of methyl methacrylate, a monomer used in the large-scale manufacturing of lightweight, shatter-resistant alternatives to glass such as Plexiglas.


An intriguing twist in the structure of a cobalt oxide catalyst

August 15, 2012 5:41 am | by David Lindley | News | Comments

Hydrogen is a clean fuel, producing only water vapor when it burns. But generating hydrogen in large quantities and in a "green" fashion is not straightforward. Biological photosynthesis includes an efficient reaction step that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen with the help of catalysts that have been used as models for synthetic catalysts. Working at the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory, a team of scientists has determined the structure of one such catalyst, a complex cobalt oxide.

New platinum-based catalyst design works better, lasts longer

August 15, 2012 5:28 am | News | Comments

Researchers from two SLAC-Stanford University joint institutes recently joined forces to investigate a catalyst that promotes energy-releasing reactions in fuel cells. What they discovered, after using high-resolution X-ray spectrometry, is that two different platinum-rhodium nanostructures behaved in strikingly different ways. The finding indicated the importance of careful engineering in catalyst design.

Scientists crack long-standing chemistry mystery

August 15, 2012 3:46 am | News | Comments

A team of researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory has answered a key question concerning the widely used Fenton reaction—important in wastewater treatment to destroy hazardous organic chemicals and decontaminate bacterial pathogens and in industrial chemical production.

Scientists' gold discovery sheds light on catalysis

August 13, 2012 7:20 am | News | Comments

An international team of researchers has discovered that the catalytic activity of nanoporous gold originates from high concentrations of surface defects present within its complex 3D structure. The research has the potential to assist in the development of more efficient and durable catalytic converters and fuel cells because nanoporous gold is a catalytic agent for oxidizing carbon monoxide.

Cheaper, cleaner, more efficient catalyst for burning methane

August 9, 2012 12:06 pm | News | Comments

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, along with collaborators from Italy and Spain, have created a material that catalyzes the burning of methane 30 times better than currently available catalysts. The discovery offers a way to more completely exploit energy from methane, potentially reducing emissions of this greenhouse gas from vehicles that run on natural gas.


Team develops high-performance flexible solid-state battery

August 6, 2012 9:34 am | News | Comments

Using a universal transfer approach, a team of engineers in Korea have built a flexible lithium-ion battery structured with high density inorganic thin films. The innovation has potential as an essential energy source for flexible displays.

DOE grant goes to lithium-ion battery development

August 6, 2012 5:43 am | News | Comments

Washington University in St. Louis recently landed a $2 million U.S. Dept. of Energy grant with $1.2 million in matching funds from the university to design a battery management system for lithium-ion batteries that will guarantee their longevity, safety and performance. The development is geared toward electric vehicle technologies.

New battery helps breaks barriers for low-cost energy storage

August 2, 2012 5:25 am | News | Comments

A research team has built an air-breathing battery that uses the chemical energy generated by the oxidation of iron plates that are exposed to the oxygen in the air—a process similar to rusting. The concept has been around for decades, but competing chemical reaction of hydrogen generation sucked away about 50% of the battery’s energy. Recent breakthroughs have lowered this loss to just 4%.

Energy-Saving System Removes VOCs from Indoor Air

July 27, 2012 6:49 am | Articles | Comments

Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed a catalyst and deployment devices to improve indoor air quality and reduce ventilation energy needs.

New ultracapacitor delivers a jolt of energy at a constant voltage

July 19, 2012 9:01 am | News | Comments

Ultracapacitors can be recharged hundreds of thousands of times without degrading, but its voltage output drops precipitously as the device is discharged. A new type of capacitor has been designed by a University of West Florida researcher that maintains a near steady voltage as it is discharged. The key is the level of exposure it has to the electrolyte solution.

Calculations reveal fine line for hydrogen release from storage materials

July 17, 2012 7:08 am | News | Comments

Scientists who have recently calculated microscopic reaction mechanisms in the promising energy storage material aluminum hydride are challenging outdated reaction curve interpretations. Their findings show how the creation of vacancies in hydrogen enables the release rate of the gas to be fast, but not too fast.

Study: Platinum is the wrong stuff for fuel cells

July 12, 2012 8:21 am | News | Comments

According to a Case Western Reserve University researcher, fuel cells are inefficient because the catalyst most commonly used to convert chemical energy to electricity is made of the wrong material. Platinum, he says, is like putting a resistor in the system. He also says existing explanations as to why platinum is the wrong material don’t do enough to explain its drawbacks.

Engineers develop new technology for grid-level energy storage

July 11, 2012 10:26 am | News | Comments

A team of researchers from Drexel University has pioneered a new method for quickly and efficiently storing large amounts of electrical energy. Their solution is an electrochemical flow capacitor, which combines the strengths of batteries and supercapacitors while also negating the scalability problem.

Catalysts open green route to chemical products

July 9, 2012 4:16 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, California Institute of Technology | News | Comments

California Institute of Technology chemists have developed a new class of catalysts that will increase the range of chemicals that can be synthesized using environmentally friendly methods. The new chemicals include the metal ruthenium and help drive a chemical reaction called olefin metathesis. The reaction has proven useful and efficient for making chemical products that involve pairs of carbon atoms connected by double bonds.

Fuel cell keeps going after hydrogen runs out

July 2, 2012 7:02 am | by Caroline Perry | News | Comments

Imagine a kerosene lamp that continued to shine after the fuel was spent. Materials scientists at Harvard University have demonstrated an equivalent feat in clean energy generation with a solid-oxide fuel cell that converts hydrogen into electricity but can also store electrochemical energy like a battery. This fuel cell can continue to produce power for a short time after its fuel has run out.

Palladium beats iron for carcinogen cleanup

June 27, 2012 7:54 am | News | Comments

In the first side-by-side tests of a half-dozen palladium- and iron-based catalysts for cleaning up the carcinogen TCE, Rice University scientists have found that palladium destroys TCE far faster than iron—up to a billion times faster in some cases.

Bringing down the cost of fuel cells

June 22, 2012 5:56 am | News | Comments

Engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee have identified a catalyst that provides the same level of efficiency in microbial fuel cells as the currently used platinum catalyst, but at 5% of the cost. Since more than 60% of the investment in making microbial fuel cells is the cost of platinum, the discovery may lead to much more affordable energy conversion and storage devices.

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