New low-cost nanotubes may help commercialize electrochemical cells

illustration of carbon nanotubes

Image: Texas A&M University

Engineers at Texas A&M report they have developed a low-cost alternative for a catalyst made from precious metals and used to build electrochemical cells. The high cost of the platinum-based catalysts presents a major problem for commercializing the cells, which generate electricity through chemical reactions.

In a paper recently published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science, the research team says it has found an inexpensive and scalable method for synthesizing carbon nanotubes that are self-standing and highly porous.

The performance of these nanotubes is as good or better than the platinum-based catalysts in both acidic and basic environments, researchers say.

In addition, the cost of the carbon nanotubes is 0.02 percent of the platinum-based catalysts, the team says. This would dramatically reduce the costs of producing the cells for a commercial market.

Choongho Yu, the Gulf/Oil Thomas A. Dietz Career Development Professor II in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, led the team, which includes doctoral students Gang Yang, Woongchul Choi and Xiong Pu.

More at Texas A&M Today and at the College of Engineering