We’ve had a new paper accepted in J. Mater. Chem. A – “Carbon Electrocatalysts with Trimodal Porosity from a Homogeneous Polypeptide Gel” (click on the photo)
(reproduced from Wikipedia. http://www.flickr.com/photos/father_jack/192744811/ Date: Taken on July 18, 2006 Author: Father.Jack)
The work basically shows how gelatin, commonly found in jelly babies, and cheap metal salts (iron and magnesium nitrate) can be combined and heated to make a composite material that is as capable of speeding up (catalysing) a key process in certain types of fuel cells. Not only this, but it exhibits an equal performance to the current commercial alternative based on palladium, which is both expensive and comparably scarce.
My involvement, alongside Brian Pauw was in characterising the material using small-angle X-ray scattering. Using this technique and Brian’s new fitting approach (available Open Access from http://scripts.iucr.org/cgi-bin/paper?S0021889813001295), we were able to identify the various structures (pores, particles) within the structure and to find their bulk average size distributions. The results agreed very well with the TEM images, which provide visual verification but cannot easily provide the statistically significant bulk averaged data.
We hope to continue this collaboration in the future – currently, we’re applying for funding to use beamlines at both the Diamond and ISIS facilities to further characterise these and related materials. Watch this space!