What is e-beam evaporation? The technique that could revolutionize hydrogen fuel cells

Where to hydrogen-producing catalysts come from? The question is an important one to those who want to harness hydrogen energy to produce new energy technology like fuel cells. That’s what researchers at Rice University set out to discover with e-beam evaporation.

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What is e-beam evaporation?

What is the e-beam evaporation system? Manufacturers use e-beam evaporation to deposit an extremely thin, uniform layer of material on the surface of an object. It’s a multi-step process that involves placing the object in a vacuum chamber with the target material, then bombarding the latter with an intense electron beam known as an e-beam. The process causes the source material to release a great deal of energy and evaporate into a gaseous form. Since the chamber is a vacuum, the gaseous molecules are forced onto the object, where they precipitate back into a solid form.

There are many possible uses for e-beam evaporation. It is often used to produce coatings on photovoltaic solar panels, transition lenses, LCD screens, and hard disks.

E-beam evaporation is a type of physical vapour deposition, a group of industrial techniques similar to e-beam evaporation. Check out Angstrom’s site for more on e-beam evaporation.

Role of e-beam evaporation in hydrogen power

The Rice University team, lead by scientist Jun Lou, have found a technique that lets them look through the holes ‘drilled’ by e-beams to measure the catalytic activity of a material called molybdenum disulfide. This material has some potential applications in using electrocatalysis to separate hydrogen from water, the process necessary to harness hydrogen energy.

This new technique will let researchers quickly probe materials to measure their potential in hydrogen production.

“We’re using this new technology to identify the active sites that have been long-predicted by theory,” researcher Lou describes.