Building a better fuel cell begins with surface chemistry
Scientists peered deep into the interior workings of a gas cell for a extra full image of the catalytic course of. This work has promise to enhance designs for extra environment friendly cells. Credit score: Nathan Johnson, PNNL Artistic Companies

Gas cells powered by electrocatalytic reactions have the potential to eradicate air pollution brought on by burning fossil fuels, in the event that they might be made extra environment friendly. Key to increased effectivity are the chemical reactions on the surfaces of the supplies concerned. A global group of scientists peered deep into the molecular reactions of ethanol on gold surfaces in alkaline environments usually seen in mannequin gas cells.

Gas cells convert chemical vitality into clear electrical vitality by means of a sequence of reactions. Modifications in floor chemistry throughout these reactions could affect each the catalytic effectivity and the reactions themselves. By offering elementary perception into floor chemistry, this work is giving scientists a extra full image of the catalytic course of and can assist them design higher gas cells that can be utilized to energy a single machine reminiscent of your laptop computer pc or a neighborhood electrical grid.

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Scientists from the Chinese language Academy of Sciences, China’s Nationwide Centre for Mass Spectrometry, and EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, a U.S. Division of Power Workplace of Science person facility, designed and fabricated a high-powered approach to visualize the transformation of skinny gold surfaces inside a direct alcohol gas cell. This work made use of EMSL’s time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometer, and allowed the group to look into the molecular functioning of the catalytic reactions. This work supplied direct molecular proof of the modifications gold undergoes in these reactions. The scientists additionally recognized extra lively websites—locations on the floor the place the wanted conversion can happen. These and different insights will present helpful info to optimize gas cell effectivity.

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Extra info:
Yanyan Zhang et al. Potential-Dynamic Floor Chemistry Controls the Electrocatalytic Processes of Ethanol Oxidation on Gold Surfaces, ACS Power Letters (2018). DOI: 10.1021/acsenergylett.8b02019

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