Aerogel acts as an excellent substitute for platinum in fuel cells

Published Date: Aug 2015

Aerogel is a unique material developed by combined efforts of technology and material scientists. Aerogel is normally made by replacing the liquid content of the gel with a gas & is ultralight, highly porous solid foam, negligible, density with high connectivity between branched structures which are few nanometers across. The material has widespread applications in various industries such as oil & gas, aerospace, healthcare, power generation, building insulation and electronics.

A team led by materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan and chemist James Tour made metal-free aerogels from graphene nanoribbons and enhanced it with nitrogen and boron to study their electrochemical properties.  The researchers from Rice University found that the resulting aerogel material can act as an excellent alternative to platinum in fuel cells.

The research was documented in the American Chemical Society journal Chemistry of Materials. Researchers have discovered that graphene's use as a catalyst in reactions occurring in fuel cells doesn't lie along the flat face but molecules at the edges are more reactive. So the team of researchers chemically converted carbon nanotubes into ribbons and then converted them into porous, three-dimensional aerogels, enhancing the edges of the resultant structure with nitrogen and boron molecules.

The aerogel so developed is promising since it provides a number of suitable active sites along the exposed edges where oxygen reductions can take place which are essential reactions in fuel cells.

According to the scientist Pulickel Ajayan “The key to developing carbon-based catalysts is in the doping process, especially with elements such as nitrogen and boron,".He further adds “The graphitic carbon-boron-nitrogen systems have thrown many surprises in recent years, especially as a viable alternative to platinum-based catalysts.".

There are many reports prepared by industry experts that track the current and future market growth dynamics and prospects. Recently Prof Research Reports has added a report titled “Market Research Report on Global and Chinese Aerogel Industry, 2009-2019”. The report offers an in-depth analysis of key drivers and restraints, various market segments, the winning strategies of the top developers, market profile of major industries that are the prime consumers of aerogel and future growth opportunities in major geographical regions with a focus on China. 

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