Rsesearch reported on December 19,2017:
To make modern-day fuel cells less expensive and more powerful, a team led by John Hopkins chemical engineers has drawn inspiration from the ancient Egyptian tradition of gilding.
Egyptians artists at the time of King Tutankhamun often covered cheaper metals (copper, for instance) with a thin layer of a gleaming precious metal such as gold to create extravagant masks and jewelry. In a modern-day twist, the Johns Hopkins-led researchers have applied a tiny coating of costly platinum just one nanometer thick — about 1/100,000th the diameter of a human hair — to a core of much cheaper cobalt. This microscopic marriage could become a crucial catalyst in new fuel cells that generate electric current for powering cars and other machines.
- In their article, the authors tipped their hats to the ancient Egyptian artisans who used a similar plating technique to give copper masks and other metallic works of art a lustrous final coat of silver or gold. “The idea,” Wang said, “is to put a little bit of the precious treasure on top of the cheap stuff.”
- He pointed out that platinum, frequently used in jewelry, also is a critical material in modern industry. It catalyzes essential reactions in activities ranging from petroleum processing and petrochemical synthesis to emission control in combustion vehicles, as well as being used in fuel cells. But, he said, platinum’s high cost and limited availability have made its use in clean energy technologies largely impractical — until now.
- “Many reactions that depends on precious metal catalysts could be rendered cheaper and more effective by taking advantage of our technology,” Chao Wang said. “At a time when we are becoming painfully aware of the limits of our non-renewable sources of energy and materials, this technique points us in a very welcome new direction.”
- Lei Wang, Zhenhua Zeng, Cheng Ma, Yifan Liu, Michael Giroux, Miaofang Chi, Jian Jin, Jeffrey Greeley, Chao Wang. Plating Precious Metals on Nonprecious Metal Nanoparticles for Sustainable Electrocatalysts. Nano Letters, 2017; 17 (6): 3391 DOI: 10.1021/acs.nanolett.7b00046
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