2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
The University of Birmingham has published a photograph of a "nanosnowman" made of platinum atoms on a titanium oxide substrate. Scientists obtained a particle with this pattern while working on a catalyst for the extraction of hydrogen fuel from water. The photo was published on the university website.
When fossil fuels are burned, large amounts of carbon dioxide and air pollutants are released into the atmosphere, so researchers are looking for a more environmentally friendly replacement. One of the most promising alternatives is hydrogen, which, when burned, does not emit greenhouse gases in internal combustion engines. Today, most of the hydrogen fuel is obtained from natural gas methane, but this method also leads to emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Hydrogen can also be obtained by electrolysis of water, but this method is associated with high financial costs, since it is energy intensive and involves the use of catalysts made of platinum and other precious metals.
Scientists from Birmingham have proposed including titanium atoms in the platinum catalyst. This saves precious metal and prevents particle agglomeration, they said. In the process of working on the invention, physicists accidentally received a particle, the atoms of which formed a pattern that resembles the face of a snowman. With a scanning electron microscope, they took a picture of it.
The photo shows a five nanometer "snowman". It was spontaneously formed by platinum atoms combined with oxidized titanium. Each cluster of platinum particles contains about 30 atoms; the "snowman" itself consists of 1,680 titanium atoms and 180 platinum atoms.
Physicists do not disclose the details of their work, so how effective the resulting nanoparticles will be in water electrolysis is unknown. Researchers also do not compare the cost of their catalyst with the cost of alternatives proposed by other scientists (for example, the molybdenum-oxometallic complex, which is about 70 times cheaper than platinum).
Modern scientists are developing many different systems to produce cheap hydrogen fuel. For example, Swiss researchers recently assembled a solar-hydrogen energy system from commercially available components. They used nickel electrodes, Nafion polymer membrane and solar panels. Boeing also recently created a rechargeable hydrogen fuel cell that has been testing in California since February.