New mineral discovery for platinum substitute looks promisingApril 25, 2011
Scientists have faced their fair share of troubles when trying to make hydrogen power more efficient. As the world continues to search for a solution to its oil addiction, research in fuel cell technology doesn’t seem to be coming fast enough. Hydrogen has proven that it is the most powerful among the alternative fuels, but the cost of producing fuel cells takes them far beyond viability. Now, scientists from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale De Lausanne (EPFL), one of the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology, may have stumbled upon a way to drastically reduce the price of hydrogen fuel cells.
The production of hydrogen relies on the process of electrolysis. Basically, hydrogen molecules are separated from water and oxygen by a mild electric current. This process often occurs naturally over the course of several years. Fuel cells use a catalyst to speed up electrolysis. These catalysts are often made of platinum, whose price has tripled in the past ten years. Researchers have been focusing on ways to negate the need for platinum for some time now.
A team of scientists, led by Professor Xile Hu, has discovered that amorphous molybdenum sulphides can be used to make catalysts. Molybdenum sulphides are a type of soft, metallic mineral that is found in abundance all over the world. The mineral can be manipulated at room temperature and has shown an incredible resilience to the chemical processes occurring in fuel cells.
Scientists will continue to observe the mineral under different conditions. They have plans of using the mineral in a prototype, solar powered hydrogen fuel cell that they are look
ing to test in the near future.