Emory University Creates Metallic Molecule for Fuel Cells

November 26, 2004 by Jeff Shepard

Emory University researchers have broken through the so-called "oxo-wall" to create stable multiple chemical bonds between oxygen and platinum - once thought impossible because oxygen is extremely unstable when combined with certain metals. The breakthrough holds the potential for numerous applications in fuel cells. The electrodes in fuel cells, where the platinum-oxo unit is key, are frequently based on platinum, and in some instances the reaction of platinum with oxygen is central to their operation.

"Oxygen is usually very unreactive in its molecular state as O2, or, when you do break the bond, it reacts uncontrollably. In nature, iron is one of the most versatile elements in its ability to control oxygen, and can pluck a single oxygen atom and transfer it where it wants to go. We wanted to take what nature knows how to do with iron, and do it ourselves with other metals," stated Travis Anderson, lead post-doctoral researcher for the project. He says the next step will be to create metal-oxo bonds with platinum's neighbors on the periodic table.