From Science Daily:
Catalysts are at the heart of fuel cells-devices that convert hydrogen and oxygen to water and enough electricity to power vehicles for hundreds of miles. But finding effective, inexpensive catalysts has been a key challenge to getting more of these hydrogen-powered, emission-free vehicles out on the road.
To help tackle this challenge, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory used a high-resolution electron microscope to study nanoscale details of catalytic particles made of nickel and cobalt-inexpensive alternatives to the costly platinum used in most fuel cells today.
A paper describing the research in the journal Nature Communications includes 3D, dynamic images that reveal how the particles’ external and internal structure and chemical makeup change as they become catalytically active. Understanding these nanoscale structural and chemical features will help scientists learn what characteristics make the inexpensive particles most effective-and devise ways to optimize their performance.