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Energy Materials

Welcome to the Nature Communications Editors’ Highlights webpage on energy materials. Each month our editors select a small number of Articles recently published in Nature Communications that they believe are particularly interesting or important.

The aim is to provide a snapshot of some of the most exciting work published in the area of energy materials at Nature Communications. Each editor handles a different area of this research, as described below:

Jacilynn Brant handles manuscripts dealing with energy storage and conversion, including supercapacitors, triboelectric nanogenerators, and fuel cells.

Adam Weingarten handles chemistry-related manuscripts that involve electrocatalytic and photocatalytic applications.

Yaoqing Zhang handles electrochemical energy storage including batteries, solid state ionics, and some aspects of inorganic chemistry.

 

 

Jacilynn Brant

  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Development of fuel cells and metal-air batteries is hindered by electrocatalyst performance, which can be enhanced with uniform and atomically dispersed active sites. Here the authors report an iron-based electrocatalyst for oxygen reduction in cathodes for a zinc-air battery and a hydrogen-air fuel cell.

    • Yuanjun Chen
    • , Shufang Ji
    • , Shu Zhao
    • , Wenxing Chen
    • , Juncai Dong
    • , Weng-Chon Cheong
    • , Rongan Shen
    • , Xiaodong Wen
    • , Lirong Zheng
    • , Alexandre I. Rykov
    • , Shichang Cai
    • , Haolin Tang
    • , Zhongbin Zhuang
    • , Chen Chen
    • , Qing Peng
    • , Dingsheng Wang
    •  &  Yadong Li
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Materials that exhibit synchronous color change and actuation may benefit biomimetic camouflage, but stimuli can be difficult to control. Here the authors report a composite with electricity-driven electrochromic and actuating capabilities for use in a solid-state ionic polymer-metal composite actuator.

    • Kerui Li
    • , Yuanlong Shao
    • , Hongping Yan
    • , Zhi Lu
    • , Kent J. Griffith
    • , Jinhui Yan
    • , Gang Wang
    • , Hongwei Fan
    • , Jingyu Lu
    • , Wei Huang
    • , Bin Bao
    • , Xuelong Liu
    • , Chengyi Hou
    • , Qinghong Zhang
    • , Yaogang Li
    • , Junsheng Yu
    •  &  Hongzhi Wang
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Ionic liquid electrolytes can impart increased operational voltage and energy density in supercapacitors, but water may diminish performance. Here the authors show that the hydrophilicity/hydrophobicity of ionic liquids can influence electrosorption of water and ultimately the supercapacitor performance.

    • Sheng Bi
    • , Runxi Wang
    • , Shuai Liu
    • , Jiawei Yan
    • , Bingwei Mao
    • , Alexei A. Kornyshev
    •  &  Guang Feng
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Hydrogen is an attractive alternative fuel, but many hydrogen-conversion electrocatalysts contain expensive materials. Here the authors report a dual-gas breathing hydrogen/air biofuel cell comprised of a modified polymer/hydrogenase bioanode and a bilirubin oxidase biocathode, delivering improved output.

    • Julian Szczesny
    • , Nikola Marković
    • , Felipe Conzuelo
    • , Sónia Zacarias
    • , Inês A. C. Pereira
    • , Wolfgang Lubitz
    • , Nicolas Plumeré
    • , Wolfgang Schuhmann
    •  &  Adrian Ruff
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Uniformly distributing nanoparticles on nanofibres can benefit electrocatalysis by increasing surface area, but it is complex. Here the authors use facile, inexpensive, nozzle-free electrospinning to produce dispersed nanoparticles on nanofibres, attaining increased voltage in a commercial-scale fuel cell.

    • Norbert Radacsi
    • , Fernando Diaz Campos
    • , Calum R. I. Chisholm
    •  &  Konstantinos P. Giapis
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Highly active catalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction are valuable for fuel cells. Here the authors evaluate catalytic activity of single-crystal platinum electrodes in acidic solutions that contain hydrophobic cations, which prevent the adsorption of poisoning species and form an efficient interface.

    • Tomoaki Kumeda
    • , Hiroo Tajiri
    • , Osami Sakata
    • , Nagahiro Hoshi
    •  &  Masashi Nakamura

Adam Weingarten

  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    CO2 conversion to reduced products provides a use for greenhouse gases, but reaction complexity stymies mechanistic studies. Here, authors present a microkinetic model for CO2 and CO reduction on copper, based on ab initio simulations, to elucidate pH’s impact on competitive reaction pathways.

    • Xinyan Liu
    • , Philomena Schlexer
    • , Jianping Xiao
    • , Yongfei Ji
    • , Lei Wang
    • , Robert B. Sandberg
    • , Michael Tang
    • , Kristopher S. Brown
    • , Hongjie Peng
    • , Stefan Ringe
    • , Christopher Hahn
    • , Thomas F. Jaramillo
    • , Jens K. Nørskov
    •  &  Karen Chan
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    The precise control over nanoscale structures is crucial in developing new, functional nanomaterials. Here, authors demonstrate a controllable method to epitaxially stack CdS quantum dots into ZnS nanowires and show improved photocatalytic hydrogen evolution activities.

    • Yi Li
    • , Tao-Tao Zhuang
    • , Fengjia Fan
    • , Oleksandr Voznyy
    • , Mikhail Askerka
    • , Haiming Zhu
    • , Liang Wu
    • , Guo-Qiang Liu
    • , Yun-Xiang Pan
    • , Edward H. Sargent
    •  &  Shu-Hong Yu
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    While plasmonic nanoparticles offer new opportunities for photocatalysis, understanding the underlying effects remains challenging. Here, the authors visualize plasmon-driven dehydrogenation reaction within individual palladium nanoparticles using light-coupled transmission electron microscopy.

    • Michal Vadai
    • , Daniel K. Angell
    • , Fariah Hayee
    • , Katherine Sytwu
    •  &  Jennifer A. Dionne
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Understanding reaction mechanisms is crucial for catalyst design. Here, natural-abundance isotope quantifications of O2 yield mechanistically significant reaction kinetic isotope effects for water oxidation over metal oxide electrodes, the bottleneck step of water electrolysis.

    • Sandra Haschke
    • , Michael Mader
    • , Stefanie Schlicht
    • , André M. Roberts
    • , Alfredo M. Angeles-Boza
    • , Johannes A. C. Barth
    •  &  Julien Bachmann
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Understanding fundamental processes that occur using solar-to-fuel conversion materials is crucial for constructing effective renewable energy collection. Here, authors find the hydrogen peroxide light-driven hole-scavenging mechanism over haematite to proceed with two active sites rather than one

    • Yotam Y. Avital
    • , Hen Dotan
    • , Dino Klotz
    • , Daniel A. Grave
    • , Anton Tsyganok
    • , Bhavana Gupta
    • , Sofia Kolusheva
    • , Iris Visoly-Fisher
    • , Avner Rothschild
    •  &  Arik Yochelis
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    While quantum dots show high efficiency solar-to-fuel conversion for renewable energy, the frequently toxic elements employed present severe safety concerns. Here, authors demonstrate indium phosphide quantum dots as low-toxicity alternatives alongside efficient hydrogen evolution photocatalysis.

    • Shan Yu
    • , Xiang-Bing Fan
    • , Xian Wang
    • , Jingguo Li
    • , Qian Zhang
    • , Andong Xia
    • , Shiqian Wei
    • , Li-Zhu Wu
    • , Ying Zhou
    •  &  Greta R. Patzke

Yaoqing Zhang

  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    The instability of the host structure of cathode materials and sluggish aluminium ion diffusion are the major challenges facing the Al-ion battery. Here the authors show AlxMnO2·nH2O as a cathode that allows for reversible Al3+ (de)intercalation in an aqueous electrolyte and impressive electrochemical performance for a battery device.

    • Chuan Wu
    • , Sichen Gu
    • , Qinghua Zhang
    • , Ying Bai
    • , Matthew Li
    • , Yifei Yuan
    • , Huali Wang
    • , Xinyu Liu
    • , Yanxia Yuan
    • , Na Zhu
    • , Feng Wu
    • , Hong Li
    • , Lin Gu
    •  &  Jun Lu
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Mn-based layered oxides are promising cathode materials for next generation sodium ion batteries. To address two existing issues facing the system, here the authors show that a simple zinc doping can suppress both Jahn–Teller distortion and phase separation, enabling enhanced cycling performance.

    • Kai Zhang
    • , Duho Kim
    • , Zhe Hu
    • , Mihui Park
    • , Gahee Noh
    • , Yujeong Yang
    • , Jing Zhang
    • , Vincent Wing-hei Lau
    • , Shu-Lei Chou
    • , Maenghyo Cho
    • , Si-Young Choi
    •  &  Yong-Mook Kang
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    The flammability and toxicity of the currently used electrolytes are the concerns that must be addressed. Here the authors show a non-fluorinated and non-toxic ionomeric aqueous gel electrolyte called water-in-ionomer that allows an enlargement of electrochemical stability window and design of environmentally friendly battery cell chemistries.

    • Xin He
    • , Bo Yan
    • , Xin Zhang
    • , Zigeng Liu
    • , Dominic Bresser
    • , Jun Wang
    • , Rui Wang
    • , Xia Cao
    • , Yixi Su
    • , Hao Jia
    • , Clare P. Grey
    • , Henrich Frielinghaus
    • , Donald G. Truhlar
    • , Martin Winter
    • , Jie Li
    •  &  Elie Paillard
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    While magnesium rechargeable batteries could combine high energy density with low cost and good safety, the extremely sluggish reaction kinetics remains to be overcome. Here, the authors show that by using solvated Mg2+ intercalation, the high charge density of bare Mg2+ may be effectively mitigated.

    • Zhenyou Li
    • , Xiaoke Mu
    • , Zhirong Zhao-Karger
    • , Thomas Diemant
    • , R. Jürgen Behm
    • , Christian Kübel
    •  &  Maximilian Fichtner
  • Nature Communications | Article | open

    Layered NaxMnO2 cathode suffers from structural instability and sluggish kinetics. Here the authors show a method to yield monoclinic NaMn2−y−δ(OH)2y, a new polymorph of Na-birnessite with maximum Na occupancy and enlarged interlayer spacing, enabling outstanding cyclability and rate performance.

    • Hui Xia
    • , Xiaohui Zhu
    • , Jizi Liu
    • , Qi Liu
    • , Si Lan
    • , Qinghua Zhang
    • , Xinyu Liu
    • , Joon Kyo Seo
    • , Tingting Chen
    • , Lin Gu
    •  &  Ying Shirley Meng