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New Catalyst Makes Ethanol Fuel Cells Feasible at Room Temperatures


ethanol_fuel_cellA few days ago I presented an invention that harnesses hydrogen from water, by simply sinking a specially-nano-designed aluminum into it. The solution is like some kind of a “panacea”, offering answers to most of our energy problems. It seems a little bizarre that some researchers are still paid (by the DOE) to find out methods of storing energy into certain carbon-collecting materials, such as ethanol. I know, I know, ethanol is extracted from green plants, and the overall carbon circuit loop is close to zero, but common sense tells me pure, on-demand hydrogen has the winning lottery ticket here.

Brookhaven National Laboratory scientists, collaborating with the University of Delaware and Yeshiva University have developed a new catalyst that could make ethanol-powered fuel cells feasible. The new material performs two important tasks, impossible to do in the past: oxidize ethanol and produce clean electricity in the fuel cell.

“Ethanol is one of the most ideal reactants for fuel cells,” said Brookhaven chemist Radoslav Adzic. “It’s easy to produce, renewable, nontoxic, relatively easy to transport, and it has a high energy density. In addition, with some alterations, we could reuse the infrastructure that’s currently in place to store and distribute gasoline.”

The new fuel cell catalyst is made of platinum and rhodium atoms on carbon-supported tin dioxide nanoparticles. Basically, in its actual form it is able to break the carbon bonds and oxidize ethanol into carbon dioxide at room temperatures.

“The ability to split the carbon-carbon bond and generate CO2 at room temperature is a completely new feature of catalysis,” Adzic said. “There are no other catalysts that can achieve this at practical potentials […] These findings can open new possibilities of research not only for electrocatlysts and fuel cells but also for many other catalytic processes”

I don’t know the solution to the perfect energy equation, but as long as we’re producing CO2 it’s not the final one. Anyway, until a new and better method is found to be feasible enough, this is a good one, too.

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