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11/28/2014

ProtonsfuelgrapheneprospectsScienceDaily

Protonsfuelgrapheneprospects
Date:

November26,2014

Source: UniversityofManchester
Publishedinthejournal
Nature,thediscoverycould
revolutionisefuelcellsand
otherhydrogenbased
technologiesastheyrequirea
barrierthatonlyallowprotons
hydrogenatomsstrippedoff
theirelectronstopass
through.
Inaddition,graphene
membranescouldbeusedto
sievehydrogengasoutofthe
atmosphere,whereitis
presentinminutequantities,
creatingthepossibilityof
electricgeneratorspoweredby
air.
Oneatomthickmaterial
graphene,firstisolatedand
exploredin2004byateamat
Grapheneallowsprotonstopassthroughit,contrarytopreviousthinking.
TheUniversityofManchester,
Credit:ImagecourtesyofUniversityofManchester
isrenownedforitsbarrier
properties,whichhasa
numberofusesinapplications
suchascorrosionproofcoatingsandimpermeablepackaging.
Forexample,itwouldtakethelifetimeoftheuniverseforhydrogen,thesmallestofallatoms,topierceagraphene
monolayer.
NowagroupledbySirAndreGeimtestedwhetherprotonsarealsorepelledbygraphene.Theyfullyexpectedthat
protonswouldbeblocked,asexistingtheorypredictedaslittleprotonpermeationasforhydrogen.
Despitethepessimisticprognosis,theresearchersfoundthatprotonspassthroughtheultrathincrystalssurprisingly
easily,especiallyatelevatedtemperaturesandifthefilmswerecoveredwithcatalyticnanoparticlessuchasplatinum.
Thediscoverymakesmonolayersofgraphene,anditssistermaterialboronnitride,attractiveforpossibleusesas
protonconductingmembranes,whichareattheheartofmodernfuelcelltechnology.Fuelcellsuseoxygenand
hydrogenasafuelandconverttheinputchemicalenergydirectlyintoelectricity.Withoutmembranesthatallowan
exclusiveflowofprotonsbutpreventotherspeciestopassthrough,thistechnologywouldnotexist.
Despitebeingwellestablished,fuelcelltechnologyrequiresfurtherimprovementstomakeitmorewidelyused.Oneof
themajorproblemsisafuelcrossoverthroughtheexistingprotonmembranes,whichreducestheirefficiencyand
durability.
TheUniversityofManchesterresearchsuggeststhattheuseofgrapheneormonolayerboronnitridecanallowthe
existingmembranestobecomethinnerandmoreefficient,withlessfuelcrossoverandpoisoning.Thiscanboost
competitivenessoffuelcells.
TheManchestergroupalsodemonstratedthattheironeatomthickmembranescanbeusedtoextracthydrogenfroma
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11/28/2014

ProtonsfuelgrapheneprospectsScienceDaily

humidatmosphere.Theyhypothesisethatsuchharvestingcanbecombinedtogetherwithfuelcellstocreateamobile
electricgeneratorthatisfuelledsimplybyhydrogenpresentinair.
MarceloLozadaHidalgo,aPhDstudentandcorrespondingauthorofthispaper,said:"Whenyouknowhowitshould
work,itisaverysimplesetup.Youputahydrogencontaininggasononeside,applysmallelectriccurrentandcollect
purehydrogenontheotherside.Thishydrogencanthenbeburnedinafuelcell.
"Weworkedwithsmallmembranes,andtheachievedflowofhydrogenisofcoursetinysofar.Butthisistheinitial
stageofdiscovery,andthepaperistomakeexpertsawareoftheexistingprospects.Tobuildupandtesthydrogen
harvesterswillrequiremuchfurthereffort."
DrShengHu,apostdoctoralresearcherandthefirstauthorinthiswork,added:"Itlooksextremelysimpleandequally
promising.Becausegraphenecanbeproducedthesedaysinsquaremetresheets,wehopethatitwillfinditswayto
commercialfuelcellssoonerratherthanlater."
StorySource:
TheabovestoryisbasedonmaterialsprovidedbyUniversityofManchester.Note:Materialsmaybeeditedfor
contentandlength.
JournalReference:
1. S.Hu,M.LozadaHidalgo,F.C.Wang,A.Mishchenko,F.Schedin,R.R.Nair,E.W.Hill,D.W.Boukhvalov,M.I.
Katsnelson,R.A.W.Dryfe,I.V.Grigorieva,H.A.Wu,A.K.Geim.Protontransportthroughoneatomthick
crystals.Nature,2014DOI:10.1038/nature14015
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UniversityofManchester."Protonsfuelgrapheneprospects."ScienceDaily.ScienceDaily,26November2014.
<www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141126094242.htm>.

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