New materials could be a boon for hydrogen fuel cells

September 20, 2013 0 By Angie Bergenson

New family of materials could lead to benefits for hydrogen fuel cells

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have discovered a new family of materials that could provide enhanced performance of a reaction known as oxygen evolution. This reaction is key in effective energy storage and delivery and a better understanding of this reaction could lead to major benefits in fuel cell energy systems and lithium-air batteries. The materials discovered by researchers are called double perovskites.

Pervoskites are abundant

Perovskites are a variant of a mineral that is readily available in the Earth’s crust. Notably, these materials exhibit a strong ability to promote oxygen evolution by splitting water into its component parts of oxygen and hydrogen. Researchers believe that perovskites can be a benefit to solar and wind energy systems, but the material could also help in the development of a new, highly active catalyst for hydrogen fuel cells.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology - Hydrogen Fuel ResearchMaterials could be used to create new fuel cell catalysts

Most catalysts for conventional hydrogen fuel cells are designed using platinum. This expensive material makes these energy systems quite expensive and researchers around the world have been looking for ways to replace platinum with less expensive, but effective materials. MIT researchers believe that perovskites could be such a replacement, as the material can be used to create a highly active catalyst that is capable of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen in an efficient manner. The hydrogen is then used by a fuel cell to produce electrical power.

Platinum catalysts may soon be replaced

Perovskites is a large family of materials and it may take some time and effort to find the best way to make use of these materials with hydrogen fuel cells. MIT researchers have made major strides, however, in developing new catalysts for fuel cell systems. Further research into this family of materials could lead to hyper-active catalysts that could eventually completely replace platinum catalysts that most conventional hydrogen fuel cells make use of today.