Sweeping Action Of ZSM-5 In Fuel Cells Catalysis

Energy is a key component of economic development and growth and is an essential ingredient for a better lifestyle. Global demand for energy is swelling consistently and this is increasing the environmental pollution as power sectors depend primarily on the use of fossil fuels, especially in developing and underdeveloped nations.

To make the situation worse, fossil fuels beneath the earth crust are depleting alarmingly at a rate of 3% per annum. Hence there is an urgent search for an alternative fuel to fulfill the global energy demand.


Fuel cells are an option as they can generate electricity, cleanly and efficiently, by converting the chemical energy contained in a non-fossil fuel into electrical energy through a simple chemical reaction of positively charged hydrogen ions with oxygen or another oxidizing agent. The efficiency of fuel cells is higher than that of combustion engines as the former can generate electricity with efficiency around 60% and even higher with cogeneration while the efficiency of the latter is typically 33-35%.

Credit: Basu Maan Daas

Fuel cells can be a potential source of energy with less pollution in the atmosphere as recent research has found out ways to convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into ethanol by employing inexpensive copper nanomaterials with an exceptional high yield of around 63%. But platinum, which is considered a potent catalyst for electro-oxidation in fuel cells, has many demerits.

One primary concern is the scarcity and high cost of platinum and another is the in-situ coverage of the metal surface by carbonaceous by-products reducing the active sites available to catalyze fuel cell reactions. ZSM-5, a common zeolite, can be a solution to the two main problems of use of platinum.

Credit: Basu Maan Daas

Platinum nanoparticles supported by zeolites as co-catalyst are found to be better electro-catalysts. Silica in zeolite framework and modification of the electronic configuration of platinum increases the electrocatalytic efficiency. The lower density of valence electron in zeolite modified electrodes than that of pure platinum resulted in a lesser concentration of adsorbed carbonaceous and higher electrocatalytic efficiency.


Silica and alumina in ZSM-5 can facilitate cleansing of the catalytic electrode surface because, in case of zeolite modified electrodes, the oxygen-containing species in the framework strongly react with adsorbed carbon monoxide on the platinum surface to release active sites for further catalysis. The sweeping action of ZSM-5 is shown in the image below.

Credit: Basu Maan Daas

The mechanism of electro-oxidation reaction over zeolite modified electrodes is initiated by the flow of reactant molecules towards the electrode surface and resultant adsorption. Then the adsorbed intermediate gives product molecules that desorb from the electrode surface.

The zeolite modified electrode surface acts as a table tennis board where the reactants convert to products dropping in and popping out as ping pong ball as shown in the image at the beginning.

These findings are described in the article entitled Electro-oxidation of Methanol and Ethanol Catalyzed by Pt/ZSM-5/C, published in the journal Electroanalysis. This work was led by Basu Maan Daas and Susanta Ghosh from Netaji Subhash Mahavidyalaya, Udaipur, Tripura, India and the Integrated Science Education & Research Centre, respectively.




New Mineral Discovered From Earth’s Mantle – Locked Away In Rare Diamonds

Scientists have recently found evidence of a new mineral inside a diamond. This mineral had never been seen before this […]

How Ant Colonies Gamble

Helped along by a series of popular children’s movies, we often like to assign even the smallest animals, such as […]

The Science Behind The Deadly ‘Tide Pod Challenge’

The first social media craze of 2018 has been the now infamous and potentially deadly “Tide Pod Challenge.” This game […]

Developing Gold Nanoparticle-embedded Dielectric Thin Films

Research on noble metal nanoparticles has always remained interesting because of their optical and electronic properties. Gold nanoparticles (AuNPs), in […]

Asteroid 1991 VG: Certainly Peculiar But Definitely Not Alien

When small (about 10 meters or 33 feet) near-Earth asteroid (NEA) 1991 VG was discovered in 1991, it was the […]

The Wisdom Of Crowds: When Collective Intelligence Surpasses Individual Intelligence

Consider a set of firms producing comparable goods. Each firm aims to strategically choose the selling price of their products […]

Estimating Ground Motions In The Largest Crustal Earthquakes

Earthquakes cause many deaths and injuries worldwide. For example, the 2015 Nepal earthquake is thought to have killed nearly 9,000 […]

Science Trends is a popular source of science news and education around the world. We cover everything from solar power cell technology to climate change to cancer research. We help hundreds of thousands of people every month learn about the world we live in and the latest scientific breakthroughs. Want to know more?