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.

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