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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

Argonne team develops synthetic bionano membrane to convert light to hydrogen

October 16, 2017

A team led by researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory has developed a new way to produce solar fuels by using completely synthetic bionano machinery to harvest light without the need for a living cell. The researchers’ device, reported in the journal ACS Nano as a “synthetic purple membrane,” contains tiny discs of lipids, man-made proteins and semiconducting nanoparticles that, when taken together, can transform sunlight into hydrogen fuel.

The system produces hydrogen at a turnover of about 240 μmol of H2 (μmol protein)−1 h–1 and 17.74 mmol of H2 (μmol protein)−1 h–1 under monochromatic green and white light, respectively, at ambient conditions, in water at neutral pH and room temperature, with methanol as a sacrificial electron donor.

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New hybrid photocatalyst for highly efficient hydrogen production from water

October 06, 2017

Researchers at the University of Central Florida, with colleagues at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Tsinghua University, developed a new hybrid nanomaterial—a nonmetal plasmonic MoS2@TiO2 heterostructure—for highly efficient photocatalytic H2 generation from water.

As reported in an open access paper in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, the new catalyst is not only able to harvest a much broader spectrum of light than other materials, but can also stand up to the harsh conditions found in seawater.

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Rice, ORNL team shows growing 2D sheets on cones allows control of defects to optimize properties

August 10, 2017

Researchers at Rice University and their colleagues at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have learned to manipulate two-dimensional materials to design in defects that enhance the materials’ properties. Combining theory and experimentation, they showed it’s possible to give 2D materials specific defects—especially atomic-scale seams called grain boundaries. These boundaries may be used to enhance the materials’ electronic, magnetic, mechanical, catalytic and optical properties.

The key is introducing curvature to the landscape that constrains the way defects propagate. The researchers call this “tilt grain boundary topology,” and they achieve it by growing their materials onto a topographically curved substrate—in this case, a cone. The angle of the cone dictates if, what kind and where the boundaries appear. The research is the subject of a paper in the journal ACS Nano.

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Aalto University team develops promising new electrocatalyst for hydrogen evolution reaction; one-hundredth the amount of Pt

March 26, 2017

A group of Aalto University (Finland) researchers led by professors Tanja Kallio and Kari Laasonen has developed a manufacturing method for hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) electrocatalysts that use only one-hundredth of the amount of platinum generally used in commercial products.

They achieved pseudo atomic-scale dispersion of Pt—i.e. individual atoms or sub-nanometer clusters—on the sidewalls of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) with a simple and readily up-scalable electroplating deposition method. These SWNTs activated with an ultra-low amount of Pt exhibit a similar activity to that of a commercial Pt/C with a notable higher (~66-333 fold) Pt loading for catalyzing hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) under the acidic conditions required in proton exchange membrane technology. A paper on their work is published in the journal ACS Catalysis.

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Georgia Tech team develops simple, low-cost process for oxide nanowires; superior separators for Li-ion batteries

January 20, 2017

Researchers at Georgia Tech have developed a simple technique for producing oxide nanowires directly from bulk materials under ambient conditions without the use of catalysts or any external stimuli. The process could significantly lower the cost of producing the one-dimensional (1D) nanostructures, enabling a broad range of uses in lightweight structural composites, advanced sensors, electronic devices—and thermally-stable and strong battery membranes able to withstand temperatures of more than 1,000 ˚C.

In a paper in the journal Science, the team reported the transformation of multimicrometer-sized particles of aluminum or magnesium alloys into alkoxide nanowires of tunable dimensions, which were converted into oxide nanowires upon heating in air. Fabricated separators based on aluminum oxide nanowires enhanced the safety and rate capabilities of lithium-ion batteries.

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Stanford, SLAC researchers use diamondoids to synthesize three-atom-wide nanowires

December 26, 2016

Scientists at Stanford University and the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have discovered a one-pot synthesis process using diamondoids—the smallest possible bits of diamond—to assemble atoms into hybrid metal–organic chalcogenide nanowires with solid inorganic cores having three-atom cross-sections, representing the smallest possible nanowires.

By grabbing various types of atoms and putting them together LEGO-style, the new technique could potentially be used to build tiny wires for a wide range of applications, including fabrics that generate electricity, optoelectronic devices that employ both electricity and light, and superconducting materials that conduct electricity without any loss. The scientists reported their results in Nature Materials.

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Ultrafine jagged Pt nanowires extremely efficient ORR catalysts; 50x more power than current commercial catalyst

November 18, 2016

An international team led by researchers at UCLA and Caltech has demonstrated that altering the form of platinum nanoscale wires from a smooth surface to a jagged one can significantly reduce the amount of precious metal required as a catalyst for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in fuel cells and thus lower the cost. According to the findings, the newly developed catalyst is so active that the amount of platinum required for a fuel cell could be 1/50 of what is needed today.

In a paper published in Science, the team reports that the jagged Pt nanowires exhibit an ECSA (electrochemical active surface area) of 118 m2 per gram Pt and a specific activity of 11.5 mA per square centimeter for ORR for a mass activity of 13.6 ampere per milligram Pt, nearly doubling previously reported best values. Reactive molecular dynamics simulations suggested that the highly stressed, under-coordinated rhombohedral-rich surface configurations of the jagged nanowire enhanced ORR activity versus more relaxed surfaces.

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