A new aqueous electrolyte has been discovered that can help in the electrochemical synthesis of ammonia.

Electrochemical ammonia synthesis is largely limited by the poor solubility of nitrogen in an aqueous electrolyte environment as well as the competitive hydrogen evolution reaction. The obstacle faced was the reduction of nitrogen in the aqueous medium. In an attempt to solve these issues, the “ambient” conditions are mostly overseen. Researchers mostly work on catalyst development, while electrolyte improvisation is still in infancy, says a press release.

Scientists from the Institute of Nano Science and Technology (INST), Mohali, an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), have introduced a new electrolyte that not only acts as a nitrogen carrier but also full-fledged “co-catalyst”, along with active material transition metal-doped nanocarbon, to deliver a high yield of ammonia at ambient experimental conditions. The ammonia production rate approached industrial scale and exceeded almost all standard catalysts.

Low-cost milk inspection

Adulteration of milk is a big problem; scientists at IIT-Madras have developed a novel low-cost method to detect it. Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has stated that more than 70 per cent of tested milk samples do not conform to standards.

A team led by Prof Pallab Sinha Mahapatra of the Micro Nano Bio-Fluids Group, Department of Mechanical Engineering, used a three-dimensional paper-based portable device to detect different adulterants in milk samples, based on the colorimetric technique.

The adulterants chosen for this study included urea, detergents, soap, starch, hydrogen peroxide, sodium hydrogen carbonate, and salt.

Just 1-2 ml of sample is required for each test; the result is known in less than 30 seconds. This lightweight, low-cost, simple-to-use, environment friendly method can also be used to inspect water and other liquid foods such as protein shakes and fruit juices, says a note published on the IIT-Madras website.

Graphene nanoribbons

A group of researchers from the University of Punjab, Chandigarh and the Institute of Nano Science and Technology, Mohali, have developed graphene nanoribbons from carbon nanotubes, which are good for making supercapacitors. They took acid-processed carbon nanotubes and reduced them with microwaves to get graphene nanoribbons (GNRs). It showed 97.3 per cent of initial capacitance retention after 10,000 cycles, which proves good cycle stability and retention capability of the multi-walled GNRs based electrode with gel electrolyte. MWGNRs have more reactive edges and high specific surface area as compared to pristine carbon nanotubes and therefore exhibit high specific capacitance. They fabricated a super capacitive device with MWGNRs based electrodes and 1M H2SO4–PVA gel electrolyte. It has showen high super capacitive performance during tests.

This method of production “is highly scalable and can pave a way to develop high performance low cost supercapacitors,” the scientists say in a research paper published in Materials Chemistry and Physics.