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Researchers Aim for Commercially Viable Fuel Cells


UC Riverside Researchers Aim to Make Fuel Cell
Technology Commercially Viable

Published paper reports on work to produce highly efficient, zero emission electrical energy that could replace the internal combustion engine.

(May 10, 2005)

Yushan Yan

Yushan Yan

Researchers from UC Riverside Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering have published a paper on their research aimed at reducing the cost of producing fuel cells that have the potential to be a highly efficient zero emission energy source for powering cars, buses and homes.

The paper, titled Deposition Of Platinum Nanoparticles on Organic Functionalized Carbon Nanotubes Grown in Situ on Carbon Paper for Fuel Cells, is coauthored by Associate Professor Yushan Yan and graduate student Mahesh M. Waje, and postdoctoral students Xin Wang and Wenzhen Li, all of the UCR’s Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering and Center for Environmental Research and Technology.

The paper will appear in the July 2005 print version of the Institute of Physics (IOP) Publishing journal Nanotechnology (Nano).

Yan’s work focuses on the use of carbon nanotubes — tiny tubes about 10,000 times thinner than a human hair - as catalyst support in fuel cells to reduce the need for platinum nanoparticles. The Pacific Fuel Cell Corporation and the UC Discovery Grant program support the research.

Fuel cell systems produce highly efficient, zero emission electrical energy. Ideally, chemicals continuously flow through the cells, making it a constant energy source.

For the reported work — Yan and his cohorts are concentrating on organically functionalized carbon nanotubes to further reduce the need for platinum nanoparticles in Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells (PEMFC), which are favored by automobile manufacturers to replace the combustible engine. They are also considered ideally suited for a wide range of other applications, including replacing rechargeable batteries.

Platinum represents one of the largest expenses in producing PEMFCs, thus reducing Pt use making fuel cells more commercially viable.

“Pt is one of the major cost drivers for fuel cells and thus, reducing the Pt use will reduce the cost of fuel cells, which is the major barrier for commercialization,” said Yan.

Yan received his B. S. in Chemical Physics from the University of Science and Technology of China and his M. S. and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the California Institute of Technology. He came to the University of California, Riverside in 1998 after working for two years as a senior staff engineer at Allied Signal Inc.


Mahesh Waje graduated with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from University Institute of Chemical Technology, India, Dr. Xin Wang received his Ph.D. from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Dr. Wenzhen Li received his Ph.D. from the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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