Brown University researchers use gold atoms to improve hydrogen fuel cells

Brown University researchers use gold atoms to improve hydrogen fuel cells

March 14, 2012 0 By John Max

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In the world of hydrogen energy research and development, nanotechnology has become the primary focus.

This technology could have a major impact on how fuel cells work and how expensive they end up being. Hydrogen fuel cells rely on a catalyst that is usually made out of platinum. These catalysts make chemical conversions possible, allowing fuel cells to produce hydrogen gas and then convert that gas into electricity. The adoption of fuel cells has long been held back by the lack of understanding surrounding the metals required for catalysts. Now, researchers from Brown University believe they can solve the problem of catalyst performance.

By using gold atoms, researchers from the university have been able to increase the chemical reactions within a fuel cell.

These atoms were used to coat some of the vital components within a fuel cell. Researchers found that if enough of these atoms were used they could act as a replacement for platinum catalysts. The gold atoms would need to be accompanied by platinum and iron atoms to be effective, however.

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Clean Energy Quotes To Remember - “For example, a breakthrough in better batteries could supplant hydrogen. Better solar cells could replace or win out in this race to the fuel of the future. Those, I see, as the three big competitors: hydrogen, solar cells and then better batteries.”

- Bob Inglis, Politician

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By remove the catalyst, or reducing its role in the energy system, researchers believe they can spur a drop in the price of fuel cells. If fuel cells become more affordable, they will become more appealing to a wider audience, making commercialization a possibility for the near future.