A study conducted at Rice University shows that graphene nanoribbons, formed into a 3D aerogel and enhanced with boron and nitrogen, perform extremely well as catalysts for fuel cells and may even pose an alternative to platinum.
The scientists chemically unzipped carbon nanotubes into ribbons and then turned them into porous metal-free aerogels with various levels of boron and nitrogen, to test their electrochemical properties. It was found that the new material provides a wealth of active sites along the exposed edges for oxygen reduction reactions necessary for fuel cells performance.
The reactions in most current fuel cells are catalyzed by platinum, but its high cost has prompted a search for replacements. Simulations by Rice scientists found that neither boron nor nitrogen doping alone would produce the desired reactions, but the results of this reseach may well establish unzipped nanotubes augmented with boron and nitrogen as a potential alternative.
Earlier this month, researchers at the Case Western Reserve University studied a graphene-based catalyst that outperforms iron-based ones. cnt