Making Fuel Cells for a Fraction of the Cost

It is the third announcement in less than one week for a major improvment in the making of fuel cells.

In the competition between Lithium-Ion batteries (e.g. Tesla cars), and hydrogen fuel cells (see picture of Nexo from Hyundai) that power electric cars, it is difficult to predict which one will be the winner at the end.

Fuel cells have the potential to be a clean and efficient way to run cars, computers, and power stations, but the cost of producing them is limiting their use. That’s because a key component of the most common fuel cells is a catalyst made from the precious metal platinum.

In a paper published in Small, researchers at the University of California, Riverside (UCR), describe the development of an inexpensive, efficient catalyst material for a type of fuel cell called a polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell (PEMFC), which turns the chemical energy of hydrogen into electricity and is among the most promising fuel cell types to power cars and electronics.

The catalyst developed at UCR is made of porous carbon nanofibers embedded with a compound made from a relatively abundant metal such as cobalt, which is more than 100 times less expensive than platinum. The research was led by David Kisailus, the Winston Chung Endowed Professor in Energy Innovation in UCR’s Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering.

Fuel cells, which are already being used by some carmakers, offer advantages over conventional combustion technologies, including higher efficiency, quieter operation and lower emissions. Hydrogen fuel cells emit only water.

Like batteries, fuel cells are electrochemical devices that comprise a positive and negative electrode sandwiching an electrolyte. When a hydrogen fuel is injected onto the anode, a catalyst separates the hydrogen molecules into positively charged particles called protons and negatively charged particles called electrons. The electrons are directed through an external circuit, where they do useful work, such as powering an electric motor, before rejoining the positively charged hydrogen ions and oxygen to form water.

A critical barrier to fuel cell adoption is the cost of platinum, making the development of alternative catalyst materials a key driver for their mass implementation.

Using a technique called electrospinning, the UCR researchers made paper-thin sheets of carbon nanofibers that contained metal ions — either cobalt, iron or nickel. Kisailus and his team, collaborating with scientists at Stanford University, determined that the new materials performed as good as the industry standard platinum-carbon systems, but at a fraction of the cost. “The key to the high performance of the materials we created is the combination of the chemistry and fiber processing conditions,” Kisailus said

Source: https://ucrtoday.ucr.edu/

Bones Could Be 3D Printed With Unbreakable Materials

Scientists from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) have discovered the secret behind the toughness of deer antlers and how they can resist breaking during fights.

3d-printed-bones

The fibrils that make up the antler are staggered rather than in line with each other. This allows them to absorb the energy from the impact of a clash during a fight,” said first author Paolino De Falco from QMUL‘s School of Engineering and Materials Science .

The research, published in the journal ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering, provides new insights and fills a previous gap in the area of structural modelling of bone. It also opens up possibilities for the creation of a new generation of materials that can resist damage.

Co-author Dr Ettore Barbieri, also from QMUL‘s School of Engineering and Materials Science, comments: “Our next step is to create a 3D printed model with fibres arranged in staggered configuration and linked by an elastic interface. The aim is to prove that additive manufacturing – where a prototype can be created a layer at a time – can be used to create damage resistant composite material.”

Source: http://www.qmul.ac.uk/

Nanotechnology To Heal Pets

Modern medicine is evolving quickly. Now, with the introduction of bioengineering, doctors can have tissue made for their patients and veterinarians are having great success using nanotechnology in our pets.
Dr. Jed Johnson has a PhD in engineering and his firm engineers body tissue. He explains: “The part that I focus on is tissue engineering, where we are basically focusing and building or engineering new tissue for the body.”
Their nanotechnology is an integral part of regenerative medicine.
cat
We’ve all seen regeneration. We’ve all had cuts on our hands, right? And those cuts heal. So, our body is capable of healing, but we have to provide the right environment,” , said the Dr. Hutchinson, from Animal General in Cranberry.
Enter nanofibers.
It takes a hundred of the microscopic fibers laid side-by-side to be as wide as a human hair.
Weave them together, and they provide a framework for healing.
Cells and tissue can’t move across open space, they have to crawl on something, and this is really the key aspect to having a scaffold is it allows those cells to have a highway to move on to refill that wound, regenerate that native tissue,” Dr. Johnson said.
You can’t do that synthetically. I mean, we can’t do that without the help of what someone like Dr. Johnson’s doing with nanofibers,” Dr. Mike Hutchinson said.
Dr. Hutchinson uses nanofibers in combination with stem cells to speed up the healing.
They will do a lot of good for as long as they stay, but we would like to keep them there longer in that damaged environment. So, they have made some nanowhiskers, if you will, that we mix with the stem cells before we inject them in, and they will hold them there. They will give them something to grow on or to hug to and keep them there longer,” Dr. Hutchinson said.

Source: http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/
AND
http://animalgeneral.net/

Very Strong Nanofibers for Airplanes And Bridges

University of Nebraska-Lincoln materials engineers have developed a structural nanofiber that is both strong and tough, a discovery that could transform everything from airplanes and bridges to body armor and bicycles. Their findings are featured on the cover of this week’s April issue of the American Chemical Society’s journal, ACS Nano.

very strong nanofibers
Whatever is made of composites can benefit from our nanofibers,” said the team’s leader, Yuris Dzenis, McBroom Professor of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and a member of UNL‘s Nebraska Center for Materials and Nanoscience. “Our discovery adds a new material class to the very select current family of materials with demonstrated simultaneously high strength and toughness.”
Source: http://newsroom.unl.edu/

Bionic Man at Olympics ?

Bioengineered replacements for tendons, ligaments, the meniscus of the knee, and other tissues require re-creation of the exquisite architecture of these tissues in three dimensions. These fibrous, collagen-based tissues located throughout the body have an ordered structure that gives them their robust ability to bear extreme mechanical loadingMany labs have been designing treatments for ACL and meniscus tears of the knee, rotator cuff injuries, and Achilles tendon ruptures for patients ranging from the weekend warrior to the elite Olympian. One popular approach has involved the use of scaffolds made from nano-sized fibers, which can guide tissue to grow in an organized way. Unfortunately, the fibers' widespread application in orthopaedics has been slowed because cells do not readily colonize the scaffolds if fibers are too tightly packed.

Robert L. Mauck, PhD , professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Bioengineering, and Brendon M. Baker, PhD , previously a graduate student in the Mauck lab at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania , have developed and validated a new technology in which composite nanofibrous scaffolds provide a loose enough structure for cells to colonize without impediment, but still can instruct cells how to lay down new tissue . Their findings appear online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"These are tiny fibers with a huge potential that can be unlocked by including a temporary, space-holding element," says Mauck. The fibers are on the order of nanometers in diameter. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter.

Source: http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/2012/08/composite/