Imperial College London

New material with high Oxygen-ion conductivity could support sustainable future


An image of the sun shining through the tree leaves.

A new material could support the development of low-cost and scalable renewable energy technologies.

Researchers from Imperial College London, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) have discovered a new material that could be used to develop improved fuel cells. 

The findings lead the way to uncovering other similar materials which could make a sustainable energy economy more achievable. 

The rise of fuel cell research

In recent years, reversible fuel cells have become a focal point of research in eco-friendly technology because of their superior abilities to produce renewable energy and clean fuel. 

Ceramic oxide-ion conducting fuel cells have become popular due to many benefits over commonly used fuel cells, such as higher power generation efficiency and longer lifetimes. To further improve the competitiveness of these fuel cells, there is now a drive to operate at lower temperatures. The advantages of low-temperature oxide ion-conducting fuel cells could pave the way for low-cost and efficient scale-up of the technology. 

Leading the way

In this recent study, researchers have identified a new oxide-ion-conducting material that may represent an entire family of undiscovered oxide-ion conductors. 

"The fast oxide ion transport was unambiguously confirmed using the 18O tracer diffusion technique at Imperial" Stephen Skinner Professor

The new material is classified as a “hexagonal perovskite-related oxide" structure and has the chemical formula Ba7Nb3.9Mo1.1O20.05. 

It was found that bulk conductivity of this new material is remarkably high at a temperature of 309°C, and higher than bismuth oxide- and zirconia-based materials. 

Professor Stephen Skinner said  “the development of this exciting new class of materials provides enormous opportunities to develop new devices and highlights that there are likely to be a wide array of as yet undiscovered ion conductors. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with Prof. Yashima and in realising the potential of these discoveries.”

The researchers hope that this discovery will guide the design of oxide-ion conductors in the future, which could lead to sustainable, low-cost fuel cells.

The research is published in an article for Nature Communications.

Adapted from a press release from the Tokyo Institute of Technology. 


Kayleigh Brewer

Kayleigh Brewer
Department of Materials


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