Corrosion Curbs Renewable Energy Production

April 12, 2024
Duke University researchers say it could one day be possible to design renewable energy devices that last two to three times longer than they currently do.

Corrosion not only poses a significant threat to various structures and devices, it also stymies structures crucial for renewable energy production, according to researchers at Duke University.

The research, led by chemistry professor Ivan Moreno-Hernandez, revealed nanoscale defects in the catalysts that accelerate corrosion, rendering devices ineffective in a matter of hours. By understanding and mitigating these defects, there's potential to extend the lifespan of electrolyzers, enabling renewable energy technologies to operate efficiently for two to three times longer. This advancement could significantly impact the adoption of renewable energy sources and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

In a study published April 10 in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, Moreno-Hernandez and his Ph.D. student Avery Vigil used a technique called liquid phase transmission electron microscopy to study the complex chemical reactions that go on between these catalysts and their environment that cause them to decay. 

An April 10 press release notes that the result delivers desktop-worthy close-ups of virus-sized crystals, more than a thousand times finer than a human hair, as they get oxidized and dissolve into the acidic liquid around them.

“We're actually able to see the process of this catalyst breaking down with nanoscale resolution,” Moreno-Hernandez said.

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