Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Layer-by-layer Assembly of Carbon Nanocolloids for Fuel Cells -- Flat-Out Amazing

In the search for sustainable energy alternatives, hydrogen-based solutions still have a lot of heft, despite the popularity of wind, solar, water and geothermal possibilities. But hydrogen-based solutions will always face a monumental barrier: membranes that are highly productive in recovering pure hydrogen must also be very thin and robust. To consume the energy stored in hydrogen in devices such as fuel cells, membranes must also be highly conductive, able to promote the efficiency of catalytic reactions. 

Peter Ho, working in the University of Michigan labs of engineering professor Nik Kotov, has been investigating the use of layer-by-layer (LBL) assembly of nanostructures in fuel cells because this technique produces membranes that not only are robust but have controlled nanoscale structures that can be incorporated seamlessly into energy applications. The LBL technique presents an ideal opportunity to create an organic-inorganic interface for efficient catalytic reactions because catalyst nanoparticles can easily be embedded in an LBL matrix. With size-controlled catalyst nanoparticles deposited in the matrix, Ho expects layer-by-layer assembly of carbon nanocolloids to make substantial improvements in the performance of fuel-cell electrodes by optimizing catalytic reactions and transport behavior.

Learn more about layer-by-layer assembly...