Researchers at Rice University have discovered that graphene quantum dots (GQDs) serve as better catalysts in fuel cells than does platinum. And the quantum nanodots are made from (cover your eyes fossil fuel rejectionists) coal.
According to Rice, “The Rice lab of chemist James Tour created dots known as GQDs from coal last year and have now combined these nanoscale dots with microscopic sheets of graphene, the one-atom-thick form of carbon, to create a hybrid that could greatly cut the cost of generating energy with fuel cells …
“… The lab discovered boiling down a solution of GQDs and graphene oxide sheets (exfoliated from common graphite) combined them into self-assembling nanoscale platelets that could then be treated with nitrogen and boron. The hybrid material combined the advantages of each component: an abundance of edges where chemical reactions take place and excellent conductivity between GQDs provided by the graphene base. The boron and nitrogen collectively add more catalytically active sites to the material than either element would add alone.”
Platinum-free fuel cells are something scientists have been feverishly working on in the last 5 years. Cheaper fuel cells will mean less expensive fuel cell vehicles which in turn will mean higher buyer acceptance.