Two prestigious 'Nature' publishing house journals reveal latest advances of UA Research Group in Surface Electrochemistry
Their research work has allowed us to understand the factors that determine the reactivity of platinum and its application as a catalyst in fuel cells, one of the most efficient, clean and renewable energy systems available
Alicante. Tuesday, 01 August 2017
Climate change has encouraged the scientific community to seek new, more efficient, clean and renewable sources of energy. Alternatively, fuel cells are able to produce energy with the combination of oxygen and hydrogen, ie producing water. The University of Alicante's Research Group in Surface Electrochemistry is a global benchmark in the study of these reactions. To do this, they have developed a novel ultra-fast heating technique using a high energy laser. Their latest advances have just been published in two prestigious journals of the Nature scientific publishing house (Nature Energy and Scientific Reports).
Hydrogen-based electricity generation systems are more efficient than other systems based on oil or coal. Although it is still an emerging technology of which much remains to be investigated, its pollutant emissions are minor.
"In regular cells, chemical reactants that produce electricity have a limited duration and, once exhausted, they need to be recharged in order to keep them running. However, fuel cells that work with liquids and gases can be continuously fed with these unlimited reagents," as explained by Victor Climent and Paula Sebastián, two of the authors of the articles published by Nature, along with Juan Feliu.
One of the main problems of fuel cell reactions is that they need a catalyst such as platinum or iridium. Thanks to the work developed by UA researchers, it is possible to understand in more detail "the factors that determine the reactivity of these metals and their application as reaction catalysts of great interest in fuel cells". The research work has been carried out in collaboration with the University of Leiden, the University of Bochum and the Technical University of Munich.
University of Aicante research group in surface electrochemistry, assigned to the Institute of Electrochemistry, has been studying the most fundamental aspects of fuel cell reactions and their relation to the atomic structure of platinum electrode surfaces in order to increase their reactivity.
It is in this aspect of the study, the relationship between surface structure and reactivity, where UA researchers are a global benchmark, among other things, thanks to the development of a technique that uses a high energy laser to find out about electrochemical reactions. This technique allows us to understand the behaviour of several key reactions to make some progress in the area of fuel cells and electrocatalysis in general.
The laser emits high-energy pulses of light that strike the platinum surface and heats it to measure how it behaves and how the voltage changes. This change provides valuable information on the structure and the reactivity of the surface. "We measure in the timescale of the millionth of a second so they are very fast processes," Climent and Sebastián said, hoping "that our research will further improve the efficiency of cleaner electrical systems for the widespread implementation of Fuel cells as an alternative to traditional energy systems."