(the middle layer is a 54 nm thin YSZ membrane sandwiched between a platinum nanostructures anode top layer, and a dense oxide nanostructured cathode on the bottom)
Single Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC) create electrical energy through the oxidation of fossil or bio-based fuels like natural gas or biofuels. SOFCs can reduce emissions over that of power plants or be emission neutral—depending on the fuel source—while providing modular, distributed energy solutions businesses, homes, utilities, and the transportation sector. A major drawback with current SOFC technology is they require high operating temperatures for maximum efficiency, creating materials science issues.
Current scientific and materials engineering research have demonstrated SOFCs with increased efficiency at lower operating temperatures by using 54-nm thick Yttrium-Stabilized Zirconia (YSZ) membranes combined with a dense oxide nanostructured cathode and a nanostructured platinum anode. Proof-of concept is complete and work is underway to increase the scalability of this technology. If this technology proves scalable, fuel cells could become viable residential distributed generation and transportation energy sources.
This technology has the potential to increase resource efficiency by creating a more stable fuel cell that has wider applicability to other sectors beyond industrial and commercial energy production.
While fixed small aspect nanoparticles and nanocoatings pose no immediate biological health risks, the free small aspect nanoparticles may pose biological health risks. During the manufacturing of the platinum nanoparticles, disposal of nanoparticle containers, and fabrication of the nanocoatings on the membrane anodes there is a potential for human, ecological, and environmental health risks. Platinum is a heavy metal from the platinum group, and platinum nanoparticles have been shown to be potentially toxic. Studies have shown that Platinum nanoparticles transfer to animal tissues and are recycling in organic synthesis—they can be passed through animal faeces and to offspring. Platinum group nanoparticles however have not been shown to be bio-accumulating.