Researchers from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), South Korea, developed a method, which provides cheap and environmentally friendly mean to create nitrogen-doped graphene nanoplatelets (NGnPs).
The study published in the latest issue of Scientific Reports states that this technology could replace platinum-based catalysts used in dye-sensitized solar and fuel cells.
Platinum-based electrodes in solar and fuel cells are probably the biggest limitation of these ever-so-needed alternative energy sources. These electrodes are highly expensive, and a subject to environmental damage.
In their search for alternatives that could overcome this problem, the UNIST scientists decided to look into the process of nitrogen fixation, during which nitrogen is converted to ammonia in the atmosphere. Using the findings from their previous study on production of graphene particles in large quantities, the researchers combined the two concepts to establish the novel nitrogen fixation method.
The team, led by Jong-Boem Beaek, professor and director of the Interdisciplinary School of Green Energy/Low-Dimensional Carbon Materials Center, UNIST, developed the technique, which uses ball-milling graphite and nitrogen gas, to form a carbon-nitrogen bond at the broken edges of graphite.
To date, the formation of the C-N bond from graphite and nitrogen has always presented a big challenge for scientists. Professor Baek is proud to announce that his team is now able to integrate the most abundant constituent in air- nitrogen, with the most thermodynamically stable form of carbon allotropes- graphite, and bring science once step closer to better energy conversion.