Nanowires may help make better fuel cells

March 16, 2009 at 12:07 PM
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ROCHESTER, N.Y., March 16 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they have created long platinum nanowires that might soon lead to the development of commercially viable fuel cells.

University of Rochester researchers say their new nanowires should provide significant increases in both the longevity and efficiency of fuel cells, which have until now been used largely for such exotic purposes as powering spacecraft.

Nanowire enhanced fuel cells could power many types of vehicles, helping reduce the use of petroleum fuels for transportation, said Professor James Li, lead author of the study.

"People have been working on developing fuel cells for decades," said Li. "But the technology is still not being commercialized (because) platinum is expensive and the standard approach for using it in fuel cells is far from ideal. These nanowires are a key step toward better solutions."

The platinum nanowires produced by Li and graduate student Jianglan Shui are roughly 10 nanometers in diameter and long enough to create the first self-supporting "web" of pure platinum that can serve as an electrode in a fuel cell.

The researchers report their achievement in the journal Nano Letters.

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