April 13, 2015

Scientists from the University of South Carolina and Clemson University have discovered a faster and more efficient method of converting electricity that could dramatically improve the efficiency of batteries and fuel cells.

“This breakthrough will pave the path to fabricate next-generation energy conversion and storage devices with significantly enhanced performance, increasing energy efficiency and making energy environmentally benign and sustainable,” said Fanglin Chen, mechanical engineering professor in USC’s College of Engineering and Computing.

The research, published in the Nature Communications journal, involves improving the transport of oxygen ions, a vital component in the conversion of chemical energy into electricity, according to a USC release. Using additives and a “smart” chemical reaction, the team demonstrated a greatly enhanced conductivity in gadolinium doped ceria.

The improved oxygen ionic conductivity of gadolinium doped ceria has been demonstrated in an oxygen permeation experiment where the elevated oxygen ion transport was used to separate pure oxygen from air at elevated temperatures, USC said. 

The approach of targeting emergent phases resulting in clean interfaces can be applied to several essential materials for energy conversion and storage devices used in hand-held electronics, vehicles and power plants. It makes them more cost effective, efficient and environmentally friendly.

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