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UL researchers study durability of next-generation energy systems

thumbnail_Dr Wang fuel cells_IMG_9246.jpg
Posted at 5:27 PM, Nov 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-09 18:27:24-05

By UL Lafayette Office of Communications and Marketing

Researchers at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette are helping to ensure that next-generation energy systems such as fuel cells, electrolyzers and batteries are more durable.

The work of UL Lafayette’s Dr. Yudong Wang and Dr. Xiao-Dong Zhou is significant, given the systems convert energy in fossil fuels and hydrogen into electricity, or produce hydrogen from renewable electricity. In the process, they create fewer harmful emissions than traditional methods of power generation and hydrogen production.

Wang is a research assistant professor for UL Lafayette’s Institute for Materials Research & Innovation. Zhou directs the institute and is the Stuller Endowed Chair and professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

The researchers – along with Dr. Emir Dogdibegovic of the University of South Carolina – analyzed the performance of nickelate-based electrodes. Nickelate is a double compound containing nickel bound to oxygen.

Electrodes – which consist or materials such as metals – promote the catalytic activity that generates electricity. The process, however, involves electrochemical reactions referred to as phase transitions that cause compositional change of electrode materials. The result is decreased durability in advanced energy systems.

At the heart of the issue is that little is understood about the compositional changes that occur as a result of the reactions, during which chemical energy is transformed into electrical energy.

The researchers found that nickelate-based electrodes perform at high levels under certain conditions. “Proper electrode design based on electrochemical operation conditions to achieve longer durability is necessary for better performance in fuel cells, electrolyzers and batteries,” Wang explained.

That’s important given better materials design for the electrodes makes them a more viable option for power generation and hydrogen production. “Nobody wants to change their cell phone battery more often than they have to,” Wang said with a smile.

Results of the researchers’ study are detailed in the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The multidisciplinary, peer-reviewed scientific journal is the second most cited.

The findings of Wang and Zhou will help inform materials design research that is being conducted at the University’s Institute for Materials Research & Innovation[]. The institute fosters interdisciplinary research in advanced and specialized metals, polymers, ceramics and composite materials.

“Our work provides a better understanding why there are such different rates during phase transition and how to better design future electrode materials, which are questions that have been lingering,” Zhou explained.

Find comprehensive results of the researchers’ study on the National Academies of Sciences website.[]

Photo caption: Researchers at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, including Dr. Yudong Wang (shown above), are helping to ensure that next -generation energy systems such as fuel cells, electrolyzers and batteries are more durable. Submitted photo

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