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Pagona Papakonstantinou: Metal free graphene as electrocatalysts for fuel cells

posted 18 Jul 2011, 01:04 by Peter Bøggild
Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials Research Institute, University of Ulster, Newtownabbey BT37 0QB, UK, p.papakonstantinou@ulster.ac.uk

Today, proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs), which use hydrogen fuel and oxygen from the air to produce electricity and just pure water as the only reaction by-product, are considered a key enabling technology for replacing internal combustion engines for automotive industry. However, the prohibitive cost of platinum for catalyzing the cathodic oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) has hampered the widespread use of current PEMFC technology. Recently, several breakthroughs have occurred, by the introduction of surface heteroatoms (e.g., nitrogen) into carbon nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes and graphene, with their performance approaching, that of platinum-based systems. The talk will highlight our recent findings on new synthesis methods of nitrogen doped electrocatalysts for ORR and will critically review recent activity and understanding that have led to these breakthroughs

Pagona Papakonstantinou is a Professor of Advanced Materials at the School of Engineering of the University of Ulster. Currently her group specializes on the fabrication and functionalization of low dimensional carbon based nanomaterials (carbon nanotubes. graphene, diamond nanorods) the characterization of their unique physical and physicochemical properties and the demonstration of these materials in biological sensing and energy areas. Research efforts are directed on engineering the structure of these carbon based nanomaterials and probing the local atomic environment by synchrotron light in view of understading their properties. In a series of papers the details of the interaction of foreign molecules such as nitrogen, oxygen and chlorine with the graphene lattice have been investigated by synchrotron based spectroscopies (NEXAFS, PEEM, XPS, VB). Pagona serves/(d) on various committees including Diamond Synchrotron Light Source, EPSRC College Panel(s), Royal Society International grants and National Access Programme (SFI) at Tyndall Institute in Cork. She is author or coauthor of more than 75 scientific papers and is recipient of a Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship (2011) from the Royal Academy of Engineering.