New Nanomaterial helps Store Solar Energy (as Hydrogen) Efficiently and Inexpensively


Perovskite New Solar Material pic3

Efficient storage technologies are necessary if solar and wind energy is to help satisfy increased energy demands.

One important approach is storage in the form of hydrogen extracted from water using solar or wind energy. This process takes place in a so-called electrolyser. Thanks to a new material developed by researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI and Empa, these devices are likely to become cheaper and more efficient in the future. The material in question works as a catalyst accelerating the splitting of water molecules: the first step in the production of hydrogen. Researchers also showed that this new material can be reliably produced in large quantities and demonstrated its performance capability within a technical electrolysis cell – the main component of an electrolyser. The results of their research have been published in the current edition of the scientific journal Nature Materials.

Perovskite New Material Researchers pic1

The scientists Emiliana Fabbri and Thomas Schmidt in a lab at PSI where they conducted experiments to study the performance of the newly developed catalyst for electrolysers. (Photo: Paul Scherrer Institute/Mahir Dzambegovic.)

Since solar and wind energy is not always available, it will only contribute significantly to meeting energy demands once a reliable storage method has been developed. One promising approach to this problem is storage in the form of hydrogen. This process requires an electrolyser, which uses electricity generated by solar or wind energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen serves as an energy carrier. It can be stored in tanks and later transformed back into electrical energy with the help of fuel cells. This process can be carried out locally, in places where energy is needed such as domestic residences or fuel cell vehicles, enabling mobility without the emission of CO2.

Inexpensive and efficient

Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI have now developed a new material that functions as a catalyst within an electrolyser and thus accelerates the splitting of water molecules: the first step in the production of hydrogen. “There are currently two types of electrolysers on the market: one is efficient but expensive because its catalysts contain noble metals such as iridium. The others are cheaper but less efficient”, explains Emiliana Fabbri, researcher at the Paul Scherrer Institute. “We wanted to develop an efficient but less expensive catalyst that worked without using noble metals.”

Exploring this procedure, researchers were able to use a material that had already been developed: an intricate compound of the elements barium, strontium, cobalt, iron and oxygen – a so-called perovskite. But they were the first to develop a technique enabling its production in the form of miniscule nanoparticles. This is the form required for it to function efficiently since a catalyst requires a large surface area on which many reactive centres are able to accelerate the electrochemical reaction. Once individual catalyst particles have been made as small as possible, their respective surfaces combine to create a much larger overall surface area.

Researchers used a so-called flame-spray device to produce this nanopowder: a device operated by Empa that sends the material’s constituent parts through a flame where they merge and quickly solidify into small particles once they leave the flame. “We had to find a way of operating the device that reliably guaranteed the solidifying of the atoms of the various elements in the right structure,” emphasizes Fabbri. “We were also able to vary the oxygen content where necessary, enabling the production of different material variants.”

Successful Field Tests

Researchers were able to show that these procedures work not only in the laboratory but also in practice. The production method delivers large quantities of the catalyst powder and can be made readily available for industrial use. “We were eager to test the catalyst in field conditions. Of course, we have test facilities at PSI capable of examining the material but its value ultimately depends upon its suitability for industrial electrolysis cells that are used in commercial electrolysers,” says Fabbri. Researchers tested the catalyst in cooperation with an electrolyser manufacturer in the US and were able to show that the device worked more reliably with the new PSI-produced perovskite than with a conventional iridium-oxide catalyst.

Examining in Milliseconds

Researchers were also able to carry out precise experiments that provided accurate information on what happens in the new material when it is active. This involved studying the material with X-rays at PSI’s Swiss Light Source SLS. This facility provides researchers with a unique measuring station capable of analysing the condition of a material over successive timespans of just 200 milliseconds. “This enables us to monitor changes in the catalyst during the catalytic reaction: we can observe changes in the electronic properties or the arrangement of atoms,” says Fabbri. At other facilities, each individual measurement takes about 15 minutes, providing only an averaged image at best.” These measurements also showed how the structures of particle surfaces change when active – parts of the material become amorphous which means that the atoms in individual areas are no longer uniformly arranged. Unexpectedly, this makes the material a better catalyst.

Use in the ESI Platform

Working on the development of technological solutions for Switzerland’s energy future is an essential aspect of the research carried out at PSI. To this end, PSI makes its ESI (Energy System Integration) experimental platform available to research and industry, enabling promising solutions to be tested in a variety of complex contexts. The new catalyst provides an important base for the development of a new generation of water electrolysers.

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Energy from the sun, stored in a liquid – and released on demand OR … Solar to Hydrogen Fuel … And the Winner Is?


Liquid Solar Sweeden large_RkeCoGI3VB0jjnprwamEX8rEU6kapTZ8SQd-0sN5fzs

“The solar energy business has been trying to overcome … challenge for years. The cost of installing solar panels has fallen dramatically but storing the energy produced for later use has been problematic.”

Solar Crash I solar-and-wind-energy“In a single hour, the amount of power from the sun that strikes the Earth is more than the entire world consumes in an year.” To put that in numbers, from the US Department of Energy 

 

 

Each hour 430 quintillion Joules of energy from the sun hits the Earth. That’s 430 with 18 zeroes after it! In comparison, the total amount of energy that all humans use in a year is 410 quintillion JoulesFor context, the average American home used 39 billion Joules of electricity in 2013.

HOME SOLAR-master675Read About: What are the Most Efficient Solar Panels on the Market?

 

Clearly, we have in our sun “a source of unlimited renewable energy”. But how can we best harness this resource? How can we convert and  “store” this energy resource on for sun-less days or at night time … when we also have energy needs?

Now therein lies the challenge!

Would you buy a smartphone that only worked when the sun was shining? Probably not. What it if was only half the cost of your current model: surely an upgrade would be tempting? No, thought not.

The solar energy business has been trying to overcome a similar challenge for years. The cost of installing solar panels has fallen dramatically but storing the energy produced for later use has been problematic.

 

Now scientists in Sweden have found a new way to store solar energy in chemical liquids. Although still in an early phase, with niche applications, the discovery has the potential to make solar power more practical and widespread.

Until now, solar energy storage has relied on batteries, which have improved in recent years. However, they are still bulky and expensive, and they degrade over time.

Image: Energy and Environmental Science

Trap and release solar power on demand

A research team from Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg made a prototype hybrid device with two parts. It’s made from silica and quartz with tiny fluid channels cut into both sections.

 

The top part is filled with a liquid that stores solar energy in the chemical bonds of a molecule. This method of storing solar energy remains stable for several months. The energy can be released as heat whenever it is required.

The lower section of the device uses sunlight to heat water which can be used immediately. This combination of storage and water heating means that over 80% of incoming sunlight is converted into usable energy.

Suddenly, solar power looks a lot more practical. Compared to traditional battery storage, the new system is more compact and should prove relatively inexpensive, according to the researchers. The technology is in the early stages of development and may not be ready for domestic and business use for some time.

 

From the lab to off-grid power stations or satellites?

The researchers wrote in the journal Energy & Environmental Science: “This energy can be transported, and delivered in very precise amounts with high reliability(…) As is the case with any new technology, initial applications will be in niches where [molecular storage] offers unique technical properties and where cost-per-joule is of lesser importance.”

A view of solar panels, set up on what will be the biggest integrated solar panel roof of the world, in a farm in Weinbourg, Eastern France February 12, 2009. Bright winter sun dissolves a blanket of snow on barn roofs to reveal a bold new sideline for farmer Jean-Luc Westphal: besides producing eggs and grains, he is to generate solar power for thousands of homes. Picture taken February 12.         To match feature FRANCE-FARMER/SOLAR              REUTERS/Vincent Kessler  (FRANCE) - RTXC0A6     Image: REUTERS: Kessler

The team now plans to test the real-world performance of the technology and estimate how much it will cost. Initially, the device could be used in off-grid power stations, extreme environments, and satellite thermal control systems.

 

Editor’s Note: As Solomon wrote in  Ecclesiastes 1:9:What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

Storing Solar Energy chemically and converting ‘waste heat’ has and is the subject of many research and implementation Projects around the globe. Will this method prove to be “the one?” This writer (IMHO) sees limited application, but not a broadly accepted and integrated solution.

Solar Energy to Hydrogen Fuel

So where does that leave us? We have been following the efforts of a number of Researchers/ Universities who are exploring and developing “Sunlight to Hydrogen Fuel” technologies to harness the enormous and almost inexhaustible energy source power-house … our sun! What do you think? Please leave us your Comments and we will share the results with our readers!

Read More

We have written and posted extensively about ‘Solar to Hydrogen Renewable Energy’ – here are some of our previous Posts:

Sunlight to hydrogen fuel 10-scientistsusScientists using sunlight, water to produce renewable hydrogen power

 

 

Rice logo_rice3Solar-Powered Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Researchers at Rice University are on to a relatively simple, low-cost way to pry hydrogen loose from water, using the sun as an energy source. The new system involves channeling high-energy “hot” electrons into a useful purpose before they get a chance to cool down. If the research progresses, that’s great news for the hydrogen […]

HyperSolar 16002743_1389245094451149_1664722947660779785_nHyperSolar reaches new milestone in commercial hydrogen fuel production

HyperSolar has achieved a major milestone with its hybrid technology HyperSolar, a company that specializes in combining hydrogen fuel cells with solar energy, has reached a significant milestone in terms of hydrogen production. The company harnesses the power of the sun in order to generate the electrical power needed to produce hydrogen fuel. This is […]

riceresearch-solar-water-split-090415 (1)Rice University Research Team Demonstrates Solar Water-Splitting Technology: Renewable Solar Energy + Clean – Low Cost Hydrogen Fuel

Rice University researchers have demonstrated an efficient new way to capture the energy from sunlight and convert it into clean, renewable energy by splitting water molecules. The technology, which is described online in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters, relies on a configuration of light-activated gold nanoparticles that harvest sunlight and transfer solar energy […]

NREL I downloadNREL Establishes World Record for Solar Hydrogen Production

NREL researchers Myles Steiner (left), John Turner, Todd Deutsch and James Young stand in front of an atmospheric pressure MDCVD reactor used to grow crystalline semiconductor structures. They are co-authors of the paper “Direct Solar-to-Hydrogen Conversion via Inverted Metamorphic Multijunction Semiconductor Architectures” published in Nature Energy. Photo by Dennis Schroeder.   Scientists at the U.S. […]

NREL CSM Solar Hydro img_0095NREL & Colorado School of Mines Researchers Capture Excess Photon Energy to Produce Solar Fuels

Photo shows a lead sulfide quantum dot solar cell. A lead sulfide quantum dot solar cell developed by researchers at NREL. Photo by Dennis Schroeder.

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have developed a proof-of-principle photo-electro-chemical cell capable of capturing excess photon energy normally lost to generating heat. Using quantum […]

Rice University: Boron nitride-graphene hybrid may be right for next-gen green cars: Applications for Hydrogen-Fuel Storage: DOE


nitride-boron-graphene-hybridnanostSimulations by Rice University scientists show that pillared graphene boron nitride may be a suitable storage medium for hydrogen-powered vehicles. Above, the pink (boron) and blue (nitrogen) pillars serve as spacers for carbon graphene …more

 

Layers of graphene separated by nanotube pillars of boron nitride may be a suitable material to store hydrogen fuel in cars, according to Rice University scientists.

The Department of Energy has set benchmarks for storage materials that would make a practical fuel for light-duty vehicles. The Rice lab of materials scientist Rouzbeh Shahsavari determined in a new computational study that pillared boron nitride and graphene could be a candidate.

The study by Shahsavari and Farzaneh Shayeganfar appears in the American Chemical Society journal Langmuir.

Shahsavari’s lab had already determined through computer models how tough and resilient pillared graphene structures would be, and later worked boron nitride nanotubes into the mix to model a unique three-dimensional architecture. (Samples of seamlessly bonded to graphene have been made.)

Just as pillars in a building make space between floors for people, pillars in boron nitride graphene make space for hydrogen atoms. The challenge is to make them enter and stay in sufficient numbers and exit upon demand.

In their latest molecular dynamics simulations, the researchers found that either pillared graphene or pillared boron nitride graphene would offer abundant surface area (about 2,547 square meters per gram) with good recyclable properties under ambient conditions. Their models showed adding oxygen or lithium to the materials would make them even better at binding hydrogen.

They focused the simulations on four variants: pillared structures of boron nitride or pillared boron nitride graphene doped with either oxygen or lithium. At room temperature and in ambient pressure, oxygen-doped boron nitride graphene proved the best, holding 11.6 percent of its weight in hydrogen (its gravimetric capacity) and about 60 grams per liter (its volumetric capacity); it easily beat competing technologies like porous boron nitride, metal oxide frameworks and carbon nanotubes.

At a chilly -321 degrees Fahrenheit, the material held 14.77 percent of its weight in hydrogen.

The Department of Energy’s current target for economic storage media is the ability to store more than 5.5 percent of its weight and 40 grams per liter in hydrogen under moderate conditions. The ultimate targets are 7.5 weight percent and 70 grams per liter.

Shahsavari said adsorbed to the undoped pillared boron nitride graphene, thanks to weak van der Waals forces. When the material was doped with oxygen, the atoms bonded strongly with the hybrid and created a better surface for incoming hydrogen, which Shahsavari said would likely be delivered under pressure and would exit when pressure is released.

“Adding oxygen to the substrate gives us good bonding because of the nature of the charges and their interactions,” he said. “Oxygen and hydrogen are known to have good chemical affinity.”

He said the polarized nature of the where it bonds with the graphene and the electron mobility of the graphene itself make the material highly tunable for applications.

“What we’re looking for is the sweet spot,” Shahsavari said, describing the ideal conditions as a balance between the material’s surface area and weight, as well as the operating temperatures and pressures. “This is only practical through computational modeling, because we can test a lot of variations very quickly. It would take experimentalists months to do what takes us only days.”

He said the structures should be robust enough to easily surpass the Department of Energy requirement that a hydrogen fuel tank be able to withstand 1,500 charge-discharge cycles.

Explore further: ‘White graphene’ structures can take the heat

More information: Farzaneh Shayeganfar et al, Oxygen and Lithium Doped Hybrid Boron-Nitride/Carbon Networks for Hydrogen Storage, Langmuir (2016). DOI: 10.1021/acs.langmuir.6b02997

 

How can we store solar energy for periods when the sun doesn’t shine? Researchers Turn to Known – Effective – Low Cost Method with a “Twist”


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How can we store solar energy for period when the sun doesn’t shine?

 

One solution is to convert it into hydrogen through water electrolysis. The idea is to use the electrical current produced by a solar panel to ‘split’ water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. Clean hydrogen can then be stored away for future use to produce electricity on demand, or even as a fuel.

 
But this is where things get complicated. Even though different hydrogen-production technologies have given us promising results in the lab, they are still too unstable or expensive and need to be further developed to use on a commercial and large scale.
The approach taken by EPFL and CSEM researchers is to combine components that have already proven effective in industry in order to develop a robust and effective system. Their prototype is made up of three interconnected, new-generation, crystalline silicon solar cells attached to an electrolysis system that does not rely on rare metals.

The device is able to convert solar energy into hydrogen at a rate of 14.2%, and has already been run for more than 100 hours straight under test conditions. In terms of performance, this is a world record for silicon solar cells and for hydrogen production without using rare metals. It also offers a high level of stability.

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The device is able to convert solar energy into hydrogen at a rate of 14.2 percent, and has already been run for more than 100 hours straight. (Image: Infini Lab / EPFL)
Enough to power a fuel cell car over 10,000km every year

An Effective and Low-Cost Solution for Storing Solar Energy

 

The method, which surpasses previous efforts in terms of stability, performance, lifespan and cost efficiency, is published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society (“Solar-to-Hydrogen Production at 14.2% Efficiency with Silicon Photovoltaics and Earth-Abundant Electrocatalysts”). “A 12-14 m2 system installed in Switzerland would allow the generation and storage of enough hydrogen to power a fuel cell car over 10,000 km every year”, says Christophe Ballif, who co-authored the paper.

 
High voltage cells have an edge

 
The key here is making the most of existing components, and using a ‘hybrid’ type of crystalline-silicon solar cell based on hetero-junction technology. The researchers’ sandwich structure – using layers of crystalline silicon and amorphous silicon – allows for higher voltages. And this means that just three of these cells, interconnected, can already generate an almost ideal voltage for electrolysis to occur. The electro-chemical part of the process requires a catalyst made from nickel, which is widely available.

 
“With conventional crystalline silicon cells, we would have to link up four cells to get the same voltage,” says co-author Miguel Modestino at EPFL.”So that’s the strength of this method.”

 
A stable and economically viable method 

hydrogen-earth-150x150
The new system is unique when it comes to cost, performance and lifespan. “We wanted to develop a high performance system that can work under current conditions,” says Jan-Willem Schüttauf, a researcher at CSEM and co-author of the paper. “The hetero-junction cells that we use belong to the family of crystalline silicon cells, which alone account for about 90% of the solar panel market. It is a well-known and robust technology whose lifespan exceeds 25 years.

And it also happens to cover the south side of the CSEM building in Neuchâtel.”
The researchers used standard hetero-junction cells to prove the concept; by using the best cells of that type, they would expect to achieve a performance above 16%.

 
Source: Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

 

Genesis Nanotech Headlines Are Out!


Organ on a chip organx250Genesis Nanotech Headlines Are Out! Read All About It!

https://paper.li/GenesisNanoTech/1354215819#!headlines

Visit Our Website: www.genesisnanotech.com

Visit/ Post on Our Blog: https://genesisnanotech.wordpress.com

 

SUBCOMMITTE EXAMINES BREAKTHROUGH NANOTECHNOLOGY OPPORTUNITIES FOR AMERICA

Chairman Terry: “Nanotech is a true science race between the nations, and we should be encouraging the transition from research breakthroughs to commercial development.”

WASHINGTON, DCThe Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade, chaired by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), today held a hearing on:

“Nanotechnology: Understanding How Small Solutions Drive Big Innovation.”

 

 

electron-tomography

“Great Things from Small Things!” … We Couldn’t Agree More!

 

Hydrogen Fueling Could be Easier to Integrate Than You Think


New report could inspire Hydrogen integration into more California gas stations.

July 25, 2014
Sunmmary

Honda's Next Generation Solar Hydrogen Station PrototypeWASHINGTON – According to a report on the Greener Ideal website, a recent research study conducted by Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) may help speed up process of installing hydrogen fuel cell stations throughout the state of California.

The SNL study, which examined 70 gas stations in California, found that 14 of them could integrate hydrogen fuel right away, while another 17 only need some property expansions before they could be ready to cater to fuel cell vehicles. Integrating hydrogen storage into gas stations is a far cheaper option than building new hydrogen fueling stations from the ground up, considering that the construction of an entirely new station can cost up to $1.5 million.

In their article, Greener Ideal explains that the SNL report found that the stations ready to immediately integrate hydrogen fueling meet the requirements of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) hydrogen technologies code from 2011, which includes guidelines for the storage, use, piping and generation of hydrogen and is an essential tool for making sure that hydrogen fueling stations are operated in a safe manner, due to their serious flammability issues.

 

“Greener Ideal Article”

Hydrogen Fuel Can Be Easily Integrated into More Gas Stations in California

July 24, 2014

The lack of fueling stations – along with high production costs, is clearly one of the biggest hurdles for hydrogen cars, so until these issues are resolved, vehicles powered by hydrogen won’t become commonplace. As far as costs are concerned, car makers are trying to develop more affordable fuel cells, which would definitely bring the price of hydrogen cars down, but when it comes to fueling stations, a much broader effort from both the auto industry and government is needed to put the proper infrastructure in place.

Of all states, California has done the most in terms of promotion of hydrogen powered cars and encouraging a wider adoption of these alternative fuel vehicles. California has been investing heavily in the construction and installation of fueling stations across the state, and offering various incentives to those who decide to purchase one of these vehicles. Currently, there are over 20 stations in California, and the state has announced plans to install a total of 100 stations within the next 10 years. However, the pace of installing fueling stations could be much faster and a recent research study conducted by Sandia National Laboratories may help speed things up.

 

Honda's Next Generation Solar Hydrogen Station Prototype

Sandia National Laboratories completed a study that found many existing gas stations in California could accept hydrogen and cater to fuel cell vehicles. Integrating hydrogen storage into gas stations is a far cheaper option than building new hydrogen fueling stations from the ground up, considering that the construction of an entirely new station can cost up to $1.5 million. Researchers at Sandia examined 70 gas stations in California, and found that 14 of them could integrate hydrogen fuel right away, while another 17 only need some property expansions before they could be ready for it.

According to the report released by Sandia National Laboratories, the 14 stations that could readily accept hydrogen meet the requirements of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) hydrogen technologies code from 2011 – which includes guidelines for the storage, generation, use, piping, and generation of hydrogen. The NFPA hydrogen technologies code is an important tool for making sure that hydrogen fueling stations are operated in a safe manner, since there are serious flammability hazards involved in handling hydrogen.

Researchers were particularly focused on the distance between the different elements of the fueling infrastructure and public streets as one of the key factors to ensuring the safe operation of fueling facilities. “Whether you are filling your car with gasoline, compressed natural gas or hydrogen fuel, the fueling facility first of all must be designed and operated with safety in mind,” said Daniel Dedrick, hydrogen program manager at Sandia.

Chris San Marchi, manager of Sandia’s hydrogen and metallurgy science group, explained that scientists need to examine the potential safety hazards if there is a hydrogen leak at an existing gas station:

“If you have a hydrogen leak at a fueling station, for example, and in the event that the hydrogen ignites, we need to understand how that flame is going to behave in order to maintain and control it within a typical fueling station.”

At the moment, there are about 120,000 gas stations in the U.S., and the study Sandia National Laboratories conducted shows that many of them could cater to hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, which would definitely help expand the hydrogen fueling station network, without having to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in an entirely new infrastructure.

For the latest information on consumer perceptions about hydrogen vehicles, read this week’s NACS Daily article, “Hydrogen Cars Are Here — What Now?”

U of Alberta PhD Researcher seeks New Solutions for Cleaner Oilsands


UniversityOfAlberta_UglyLogo_1-796768

PhD student wins scholarship to help find environmentally friendly ways of producing hydrogen for energy industry.

(Edmonton) We live in a province rich in fossil fuel resources, and great profits can be made from them. However, the use of these fossil fuels comes at a significant environmental cost. The greenhouse gas emissions footprint of Alberta’s oilsands industry is one of its most formidable challenges in the context of environmental stewardship.

Babatunde Olateju, a PhD candidate in the University of Alberta’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and a recipient of this year’s $13,000 Sadler Graduate Scholarships in Mechanical Engineering, is researching ways to mitigate an energy-intensive aspect of oilsands activities: hydrogen production.

Huge amounts of hydrogen are consumed in upgrading bitumen to synthetic crude oil, and considerable energy is consumed simply to produce usable hydrogen. (The use of hydrogen is expected to reach 3.1 million tonnes per year in the oilsands industry by 2023.) Hydrogen is an abundant simple element and is a potential source of emissions-free fuel. But hydrogen doesn’t exist on its own; it is locked up in water, carbon (coal) and other elements.

Albera Oil Sands II

Alberta ‘Oil Sands’ Projects

Most of the hydrogen used as a fuel in North America is extracted through a process known as steam methane reforming. This process results in considerable greenhouse gas emissions. Olateju is building computer models that consider both the technology and the costs of producing hydrogen through more environmentally friendly means.

His models consider two alternatives to current methods of producing hydrogen: one is using energy produced from renewable sources such as wind and hydro power, and the other is finding ways to mitigate the effects of hydrogen production as it is currently produced (with natural gas and coal) through carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) or underground coal gasification.

CCS is the geological storage (landfilling) of carbon dioxide generated from use of fossil fuels. CCS is still in the early stages of development. Underground coal gasification is a method of converting coal to gas (syngas) underground, and can be used in combination with CCS. Even if used without CCS, underground gasification results in a lower greenhouse gas footprint than traditional methods of coal combustion.

Olateju’s computer models assess large-scale, environmentally sustainable hydrogen production systems (and their costs) for the bitumen upgrading industry in Western Canada. This is data-intensive work; he uses data sourced mainly from refereed journals but also from government and industry. Despite these data, in Western Canada, very little research has been done on producing hydrogen in environmentally sustainable yet economically feasible ways. Olateju says the work is time-consuming but it remains a stimulating endeavour, especially considering the insight that can be gained from the model results. The oilsands industry is expanding, and it’s imperative that we find ways to make its growth sustainable.

There’s a need for environmental stewardship to balance the growth. Given the considerable amount of hydrogen used in the upgrading of bitumen, finding ways to produce hydrogen with lower or no greenhouse gas emissions will make a huge impact. Olateju is seeing his papers published in high-impact journals and receiving academic awards. In addition to the Sadler Graduate Scholarship, he received the Government of Alberta’s Graduate Citizenship Award. This is not surprising for the former co-president of the U of A’s Energy Club and, until December 2013, president of the university’s Nigerian Students’ Association. Olateju is part of a research program led by Amit Kumar, who holds the Industrial Research Chair in Energy and Environmental Systems Engineering funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Cenovus Energy, Alberta Innovates – Energy and Environment Solutions, and Alberta Innovates – Bio Solutions.

Dave Hassan, Cenovus’s director of technology investments, said, “We believe that it is imperative for society to understand how to make the best use of our energy and water resources. The research pursued by Olateju and his colleagues at the U of A is critical to developing this understanding, and we look forward to learning more about his findings.” Olateju says he feels “profound gratitude” toward the U of A and especially toward the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

He also feels “a strong sense of fulfilment and motivation to sustain and deepen my intellectual pursuits, within and beyond the confines of academia. My journey to the University of Alberta was eventful, and not without its fair share of challenges and sacrifices.” Olateju values his relationships with his colleagues in the sustainable energy research group and adds that his relationship with Kumar “has been the most influential factor for my intellectual growth and research success.”

NANOTECHNOLOGY – On the Horizon and in the Far Future: Video


 

 

 

What is Nanotechnology?

 
A basic definition: Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale. This covers both current work and concepts that are more advanced.

 

 
In its original sense, ‘nanotechnology’ refers to the projected ability to construct items from the bottom up, using techniques and tools being developed today to make complete, high performance products.

Nanotechnology (sometimes shortened to “nanotech”) is the manipulation of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology referred to the particular technological goal of precisely manipulating atoms and molecules for fabrication of macroscale products, also now referred to as molecular nanotechnology.

A more generalized description of nanotechnology was subsequently established by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which defines nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. This definition reflects the fact that quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale, and so the definition shifted from a particular technological goal to a research category inclusive of all types of research and technologies that deal with the special properties of matter that occur below the given size threshold.

It is therefore common to see the plural form “nanotechnologies” as well as “nanoscale technologies” to refer to the broad range of research and applications whose common trait is size. Because of the variety of potential applications (including industrial and military), governments have invested billions of dollars in nanotechnology research.

Through its National Nanotechnology Initiative, the USA has invested 3.7 billion dollars. The European Union has invested 1.2 billion and Japan 750 million dollars

Rice University Researches Believe 3-D Boron Nitride Nanostructure Would Benefit Nanoelectronics & Gas (Hydrogen) Storage


mit-flow-batteries_jpg_662x0_q100_crop-scaleA three-dimensional porous nanostructure would have a balance of strength, toughness and ability to transfer heat that could benefit nanoelectronics, gas storage and composite materials that perform multiple functions, according to engineers at Rice University.
The researchers made this prediction by using computer simulations to create a series of 3-D prototypes with boron nitride, a chemical compound made of boron and nitrogen atoms. Their findings were published online July 14 in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C (“Synergistic Behavior of Tubes, Junctions and Sheets Imparts Mechano-Mutable Functionality in 3D Porous Boron Nitride Nanostructures”).
Rouzbeh Shahsavari, left, and Navid Sakhavand
Rouzbeh Shahsavari, left, and Navid Sakhavand used computer simulations to predict the properties of a 3-D nanostructure made with boron nitride.
“We combined the tubes and sheets together to make them three-dimensional, thus offering more functionality,” said Rouzbeh Shahsavari, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and of materials science and nanoengineering, who co-authored the paper with graduate student Navid Sakhavand. In the 3-D nanostructure, the extremely thin sheets of boron nitride are stacked in parallel layers, with tube-shaped pillars of boron nitride between each layer to keep the sheets separated.
Shahsavari noted that in the one-dimensional and two-dimensional versions of boron nitride, there is always a bias in directional properties, either toward the tube axis or in-plane directions, which is not suitable for widespread 3-D use in technology and industrial applications.
For example, a one-dimensional boron nitride nanotube can be stretched about 20 percent of its length before it breaks, but the 3-D prototype of boron nitride can be stretched about 45 percent of its length without breaking.
When the typical one- or two-dimensional boron nitride materials are stretched in one direction, they tend to shrink in the other perpendicular directions. In the 3-D prototype, however, when the material stretches in the in-plane direction, it also stretches in perpendicular directions. “Here, the junction between the tubes and sheets has a unique curve-like structure that contributes to this interesting phenomenon, known as the auxetic effect,” Shahsavari said.
The thermal transport properties of the 3-D prototype are also advantageous, he said. The one-dimensional boron nitride tubes and two-dimensional sheets can carry heat very fast but only in one or two directions. The 3-D prototype carries heat relatively fast in all 3-D directions. “This feature is ideal for applications that require materials or coating with the capability of extremely fast thermal diffusion to the environments. Examples include car engines or computer CPUs where a fast heat transfer to the environments is critical in proper functioning,” Shahsavari said.
The 3-D boron nitride prototype has a very porous and lightweight structure. Each gram of this Swiss cheese-like structure has a surface area equivalent to three tennis courts. Such a high surface area lends itself to customized applications. Shahsavari and Sakhavand predicted that the 3-D prototype of boron nitride would allow efficient gas storage and separation, for example, in vehicles that run on hydrogen cells.
Unlike graphene-based nanostructures, boron nitride is an electrically insulating material. Thus, the 3-D boron nitride prototype has a potential to complement graphene-based nanoelectronics, including potential for the next generation of 3-D semiconductors and 3-D thermal transport devices that could be used in nanoscale calorimeters, microelectronic processes and macroscopic refrigerators.
The actual 3-D boron nitride prototype still has to be created in the lab, and numerous efforts are already underway. “Our computer simulations show what properties can be expected from these structures and what the key factors are that control their functionality,” Shahsavari said.
Source: Rice University

Researchers discover boron “buckyball”: Borosphrene is Born!


 

Brown U Boronosphere1The discovery of buckyballs—soccer-ball-shaped molecules of carbon—helped usher in the nanotechnology era. Now, Lai-Sheng Wang’s research group and colleagues from China have shown that boron, carbon’s neighbor on the periodic table, can form a cage-like molecule similar to the buckyball. Until now, such a boron structure had only been a theoretical speculation. The researchers dubbed their newfound nanostructure “borospherene.”

The discovery 30 years ago of soccer-ball-shaped carbon molecules called buckyballs helped to spur an explosion of nanotechnology research. Now, there appears to be a new ball on the pitch.

Researchers from Brown University, Shanxi University and Tsinghua University in China have shown that a cluster of 40 boron atoms forms a hollow molecular cage similar to a carbon buckyball. It’s the first experimental evidence that a boron cage structure—previously only a matter of speculation—does indeed exist.

“This is the first time that a boron cage has been observed experimentally,” said Lai-Sheng Wang, a professor of chemistry at Brown who led the team that made the discovery. “As a chemist, finding new molecules and structures is always exciting. The fact that boron has the capacity to form this kind of structure is very interesting.”

Wang and his colleagues describe the molecule, which they’ve dubbed borospherene, in the journal Nature Chemistry.

Carbon buckyballs are made of 60 carbon atoms arranged in pentagons and hexagons to form a sphere—like a soccer ball. Their discovery in 1985 was soon followed by discoveries of other hollow carbon structures including carbon nanotubes. Another famous carbon nanomaterial—a one-atom-thick sheet called graphene—followed shortly after.

After buckyballs, scientists wondered if other elements might form these odd hollow structures. One candidate was boron, carbon’s neighbor on the periodic table. But because boron has one less electron than carbon, it can’t form the same 60-atom structure found in the buckyball. The missing electrons would cause the cluster to collapse on itself. If a boron cage existed, it would have to have a different number of atoms.

Wang and his research group have been studying boron chemistry for years. In a paper published earlier this year, Wang and his colleagues showed that clusters of 36 boron atoms form one-atom-thick disks, which might be stitched together to form an analog to graphene, dubbed borophene. Wang’s preliminary work suggested that there was also something special about boron clusters with 40 atoms. They seemed to be abnormally stable compared to other boron clusters.

Figuring out what that 40-atom cluster actually looks like required a combination of experimental work and modeling using high-powered supercomputers.

On the computer, Wang’s colleagues modeled over 10,000 possible arrangements of 40 boron atoms bonded to each other. The computer simulations estimate not only the shapes of the structures, but also estimate the electron binding energy for each structure—a measure of how tightly a molecule holds its electrons. The spectrum of binding energies serves as a unique fingerprint of each potential structure.

The carbon buckyball has a boron cousin. A cluster for 40 boron atoms forms a hollow cage-like molecule.The carbon buckyball has a boron cousin. A cluster for 40 boron atoms forms a hollow cage-like molecule.The next step is to test the actual binding energies of boron clusters in the lab to see if they match any of the theoretical structures generated by the computer. To do that, Wang and his colleagues used a technique called photoelectron spectroscopy.

Chunks of bulk boron are zapped with a laser to create vapor of boron atoms. A jet of helium then freezes the vapor into tiny clusters of atoms. The clusters of 40 atoms were isolated by weight then zapped with a second laser, which knocks an electron out of the cluster. The ejected electron flies down a long tube Wang calls his “electron racetrack.” The speed at which the electrons fly down the racetrack is used to determine the cluster’s electron binding energy spectrum—its structural fingerprint.

The experiments showed that 40-atom-clusters form two structures with distinct binding spectra. Those spectra turned out to be a dead-on match with the spectra for two structures generated by the computer models. One was a semi-flat molecule and the other was the buckyball-like spherical cage.

“The experimental sighting of a binding spectrum that matched our models was of paramount importance,” Wang said. “The experiment gives us these very specific signatures, and those signatures fit our models.”

The borospherene molecule isn’t quite as spherical as its carbon cousin. Rather than a series of five- and six-membered rings formed by carbon, borospherene consists of 48 triangles, four seven-sided rings and two six-membered rings. Several atoms stick out a bit from the others, making the surface of borospherene somewhat less smooth than a buckyball.

As for possible uses for borospherene, it’s a little too early to tell, Wang says. One possibility, he points out, could be hydrogen storage. Because of the electron deficiency of boron, borospherene would likely bond well with hydrogen. So tiny boron cages could serve as safe houses for hydrogen molecules.

But for now, Wang is enjoying the discovery.

“For us, just to be the first to have observed this, that’s a pretty big deal,” Wang said. “Of course if it turns out to be useful that would be great, but we don’t know yet. Hopefully this initial finding will stimulate further interest in boron clusters and new ideas to synthesize them in bulk quantities.”

The theoretical modeling was done with a group led by Prof. Si-Dian Li from Shanxi University and a group led by Prof. Jun Li from Tsinghua University. The work was supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation (CHE-1263745) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

Source: Brown Univ.