Graphene could lead to less expensive hydrogen fuel cells

August 24, 2015 0 By Bret Williams

Researchers develop new catalyst made up of laser-induced graphene

Researchers from Rice University have found a potential replacement for conventional platinum catalysts that are used to power hydrogen fuel cells. Last year, researchers developed a unique form of graphene, which is laser-induced. Now, they have found a way to embed metallic nanoparticles into the material, which will allow it to serve as a catalyst for fuel cells, powering their electrochemical processes. This could make fuel cells less expensive and somewhat more efficient.

New catalyst is embedded with metallic nanoparticles

The laser-induced graphene has proven to be a flexible material that hosts a porous surface. Reactive metals can be placed within the surface, providing the graphene material with catalytic properties. Researchers have found that the material can effectively replace platinum within fuel cells, largely due to its resistance to chemical erosion and its ability to facilitate electrochemical processes.

Platinum catalysts make hydrogen fuel cells more expensive

Rice University - Hydrogen Fuel ResearchHydrogen fuel cells need a catalyst to operate effectively. These catalysts are typically made up of platinum, which has proven to be quite capable of powering electrochemical processes and resist the corrosive environments found within hydrogen fuel cells. Typical fuel cells consume hydrogen in order to generate electrical power. Converting hydrogen into electricity involves an electrochemical process called electrolysis, which is facilitated through the use of platinum catalysts.

Reducing the cost of fuel cells could make them a more attractive renewable energy solution

The problem with platinum catalysts is that they are very expensive. This makes hydrogen fuel cells quite costly, which has limited their appeal to consumers and businesses alike. While more people are growing interested in renewable energy, they are showing support for solar, wind, and other forms of clean power, wary of fuel cells because of their expensive nature. Replacing platinum catalysts with those comprised of inexpensive materials may solve this problem, making fuel cells more attractive to those concerned about renewable energy. Reducing the cost of fuel cells will likely help them become a primary energy system within the residential sector, where more homeowners are looking for ways to distance themselves from fossil-fuels.