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Ethanol-based fuel cells get a boost with a new catalyst

By Chemical Engineering |

Hideki Abe and colleagues at the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS, Tsukuba City, Japan; www.nims.go.jp), in collaboration with the Global Research Center for Environment and Energy based on Nanomaterials Science (GREEN) and Tohoku University, have developed a new catalyst materials — intermetallic TaPt3 nanoparticles — that can efficiently produce electric power from ethanol fuel at ambient temperatures and pressures without generating toxic waste gases. The intermetallic TaPt3 nanoparticles exhibit excellent catalytic performance for ethanol oxidation in polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells, producing a current density of about 4 mA/cm2 at electrode voltages of 0.4 V, which is nearly ten times higher that by the state-of-the art Pt3Sn nanoparticles. In single-cell tests, the TaPt3 NPs delivered output currents of more than twice that from Pt-based cells. The TaPt3’s ability to cleave ethanol’s C–C bond makes the catalyst a promising way to utilize ethanol as a fuel, without generating NOx or CO that are produced by ethanol combustion in a diesel engine. The researchers plan to enhance the yield for TaPt3 synthesis to produce several grams for operating a stack of PEM fuel cells.
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