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By Andrew Tanner-Smith on 13/06/23

Graphene with ripples could help make better hydrogen fuel cells, according to a recent study published in the journal Science Advances. The findings could lead to more efficient hydrogen fuel cells. Graphene, a material made of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice, is known for its exceptional mechanical and electrical properties including high conductivity and tensile strength. In recent years, graphene has been studied extensively for its potential in various applications, including energy storage and conversion.

The new study focused on the use of graphene with ripples, which are deformations in the graphene lattice that occur naturally or can be induced through various methods. The researchers found that these ripples can enhance the performance of hydrogen fuel cells by increasing the rate of proton transfer, a crucial step in the process of converting hydrogen and oxygen into electricity.

The study used computer simulations to model the behavior of hydrogen ions, or protons, as they interacted with a graphene surface with and without ripples. The results showed that the ripples created a more favorable environment for proton transfer, reducing the energy barrier and increasing the efficiency of the process.

The researchers also tested their findings experimentally, using a graphene oxide membrane with ripples as a catalyst in a hydrogen fuel cell. The results showed a significant improvement in the fuel cell's performance, with a higher current density and lower overpotential, which is the extra energy needed to start the reaction.

The promise of better hydrogen fuel cells with graphene has implications beyond clean energy. Hydrogen fuel cells are also used in various industries, including transportation, aerospace, and telecommunications. Improving their efficiency and durability could lead to more cost-effective and reliable applications.

In the transportation sector, hydrogen fuel cells have been touted as a potential alternative to traditional gasoline engines, with several automakers already offering or planning to offer hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. However, their high cost and limited range have been a barrier to widespread adoption. Improving the efficiency of hydrogen fuel cells could address these concerns and make them a more viable option for clean transportation.

In the aerospace industry, hydrogen fuel cells have been used in space missions, where their high energy density and low weight make them ideal for powering spacecraft. However, their durability in harsh environments like space has been a challenge. Graphene with ripples could potentially enhance their durability and make them more reliable for space applications.

The recent study on graphene with ripples and its potential to improve hydrogen fuel cells is a promising development in the pursuit of clean energy. With the potential to enhance the efficiency and durability of hydrogen fuel cells, graphene could play a critical role in the transition to a more sustainable future. While there are challenges to be addressed, the potential benefits are worth pursuing, and further research could lead to more innovative and effective solutions.

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