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In this issue:
Fuel Cells Get Up to Speed with a New Kind of Platinum
Seen Around SLAC: Earth Day
Colloquium Today: Water, Bonds, Politics and Fish—Shaping and Reshaping the Future of California's Water Resources

SLAC Today

Monday - April 26, 2010

Fuel Cells Get Up to Speed with a New Kind of Platinum

(Photo)
Researchers including Hirohito Ogasawara (left), Anders Nilsson (center), and Mike Toney (right) used SSRL's bright X-ray beam to study a new form of platinum that could be used to make cheaper, more efficient fuel cells. (Photo courtesy Kelen Tuttle; click on image for larger version.)

A new form of platinum that could be used to make cheaper, more efficient fuel cells has been created by researchers at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the University of Houston. The process, described in the April 25 issue of Nature Chemistry, could help enable broader use of the devices, which produce emissions-free energy using hydrogen.

"This is a significant advance," said scientist Anders Nilsson, who conducts research at the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences, a joint institute between SLAC and Stanford University. "Fuel cells were invented more than 100 years ago. They haven't made a leap over to being a big technology yet, in part because of this difficulty with platinum."

Fuel cells hold significant promise for clean energy because the cell's only byproduct is water. But current fuel cell designs can require as much as 100 grams of platinum, pushing their price tags into the thousands of dollars. By tweaking platinum's reactivity, the researchers were able to curtail the amount of platinum required by 80 percent, and hope to soon reduce it by another 10 percent, greatly decreasing the overall cost.

"I think with a factor of ten, we'll have a home run," Nilsson added.

Fuel cells work much like batteries—an anode provides electrons and a cathode collects them on the other end of an electrical circuit. But unlike batteries, fuel cells use hydrogen and oxygen to drive their energy-producing reactions; when oxygen enters the metal cathode, it is broken down into individual atoms before it forms water with hydrogen.  Read more...

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(Photo by Julie Karceski.)

Seen Around SLAC: Earth Day

Last Thursday marked Earth Day, an annual event to raise awareness of environmental concerns. SLAC hosted its own Earth Day festivities in the Panofsky Auditorium breezeway, offering visitors a variety of information on sustainability and green practices.

(Photo - Kin-Wang Ng)
Kin-Wang Ng with his new Diamondback bicycle. (Photo courtesy Micki DeCamara.)

SLACers visiting the Earth Day expo picked up free plants, learned about gardening and composting and met with eco-focused organizations and vendors. Kin-Wang Ng from the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology was the grand prize winner of the raffle for a new bicycle!

 

Colloquium Today: Water, Bonds, Politics and Fish—Shaping and Reshaping the Future of California's Water Resources

(Image - SLAC Colloquium banner)

What makes for a sustainable water resource for California? We have some extraordinarily important and challenging decisions to make, both locally and statewide, in the next decade as we confront more people and fewer fish, more rain and less snow, old dams and new budgets. How do we make decisions in the face of all this complexity and change? I'll try to untangle some of the issues, sort out fact from fiction, and explore some alternate futures for California's water resources.

Freyberg is Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and, by courtesy, of Geological and Environmental Sciences at Stanford University. He is also Senior Fellow, by courtesy, at the Woods Institute for the Environment and at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.  He is currently working with students studying the hydrology of wetland ecosystems, the quantification and valuation of hydrologic ecosystem services, sediment accumulation in reservoirs, the exchange of water between reservoirs and their trapped sediments (especially Stanford’s own Searsville Lake), the fate of old, sediment-impacted dams and potential responses to their removal, and the pedagogy of fluid mechanics and engineering design. He maintains a strong interest in water resources development, policy and history, particularly in North America, the American West, the Middle East, and Asia. He is a co-author of the widely used textbook, Water-Resources Engineering.

Freyberg's talk will begin at 4:15 p.m. today in Panofsky Auditorium. The colloquium is free and open to all.

Next Monday, Stanford Biology Professor and Senior Fellow at the Wood Institute for the Environment Peter Vitousek will present "Anthropogenic Nitrogen: Too Much of a Good Thing?"

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