Tech Briefs Magazine - August 2021 - 37

lyst can " melt together " during operation
in a vehicle. This reduces the surface of
The new electrocatalyst for hydrogen fuel cells consists of a thin platinum-cobalt alloy network and,
unlike the catalysts commonly used today, does not require a carbon carrier. (© Gustav Sievers)
alloy network) with oxygen from the air,
thus producing water vapor. This is discharged
via the " exhaust. "
For the fuel cell to produce electricity,
both electrodes must be coated with a catalyst.
Without a catalyst, the chemical re -
actions would proceed very slowly. This
applies in particular to the second electrode,
the oxygen electrode; however, the
platinum-cobalt nanoparticles of the cataUltrahigh-Energy-Density
Capacitor
By introducing defects to a common material, a highly efficient capacitor offers dramatically
increased energy density.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, California
C
apacitors that rapidly store and re -
lease electric energy are key components
in modern electronics and power
systems; however, the most commonly
used ones have low energy densities
com pared to other storage systems like
batteries or fuel cells, which in turn cannot
discharge and recharge rapidly without
sustaining damage. By introducing
isolated defects to a type of commercially
available thin film in a straightforward
post-processing step, a team has demonstrated
that a common material can be
processed into a top-performing energy
storage material.
Growing requirements for cost reduction
and device miniaturization have driven
a push toward development of highenergy-density
capacitors. Capaci tors are
commonly used in electronic devices to
maintain power supply while a battery is
being charged. The new material could
ultimately combine the efficiency, reliability,
and robustness of capacitors with
Tech Briefs, August 2021
Cov
the catalyst and therefore the efficiency of
the cell. In addition, the carbon normally
used to fix the catalyst can corrode when
used in road traffic. This affects the service
life of the fuel cell and consequently
the vehicle. Previous similar catalysts without
a carrier material always only had a
reduced surface area. Since the size of the
surface area is crucial for the catalyst's
activity and hence its performance, these
were less suitable for industrial use.
The researchers incorporated a special
process called cathode sputtering. With
this method, a material's individual components
(here, platinum or cobalt) are
dissolved (atomized) by bombardment
with ions. The released gaseous atoms
then condense as an adhesive layer. With
the sputtering process and subsequent
treatment, a very porous structure can be
achieved, which gives the catalyst a high
surface area and is self-supporting at the
same time. A carbon carrier is therefore
unnecessary.
For more information, contact Professor
Dr. Matthias Arenz at matthias.arenz@
dcb.unibe.ch; +41 31 631 53 84.
To make the new material, the thin film is first deposited via a pulsed-laser deposition process in
this chamber. The bright " plume " is the laser hitting the target and depositing the material. (Image
courtesy of Lane Martin)
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Tech Briefs Magazine - August 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Tech Briefs Magazine - August 2021

Tech Briefs Magazine - August 2021 - Intro
Tech Briefs Magazine - August 2021 - Sponsor
Tech Briefs Magazine - August 2021 - Cov1
Tech Briefs Magazine - August 2021 - Cov2
Tech Briefs Magazine - August 2021 - 1
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Tech Briefs Magazine - August 2021 - Cov3
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Tech Briefs Magazine - August 2021 - MD-Cov1
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