Hydrogen fuel cells beginning to break away from platinum and other expensive materials
Hydrogen fuel cells receive a great deal of praise for their status as a zero-emissions energy system that can produce large amounts of electrical power. The energy systems are also the subject of harsh criticism regarding their cost. Indeed, the manufacture of hydrogen fuel cells is a costly endeavor. This is due to the use of expensive materials that are used to create the energy systems’ major components. Platinum, for instance, is used to create the catalyst that a fuel cell needs in order to produce electricity. The catalyst is often the most expensive part of a hydrogen fuel cell.
Researchers find solutions to expensive catalysts in nanotechnology
Researchers all over the world have been working for years to replace platinum catalysts with something more economically viable without sacrificing the performance of fuel cells. A new study from physicists with the Umea University in Sweden suggests that the quest for inexpensive materials for fuel cells may be close to its end. The study, titled “Formation of Active Sites for Oxygen Reduction Reactions by Transformation of Nitrogen Functionalities in Nitrogen-Doped Carbon Nanotubes,” claims that the solution lies in nanotechnology.
Hydrogen fuel cells could benefit from nitrogen-doped carbon nanotubes
Researchers suggest that the use of all-organic catalysts are ideal for dropping the costs associated with hydrogen fuel cell production. Researchers from the Umea University have been working with nitrogen-doped carbon nanotubes that could fill the role of a traditional platinum catalyst. These nanotubes contain defects that would have once been considered to make them useless, but researchers note that these defects actually improve the catalytic properties of carbon nanotubes in certain circumstances.
Researchers working on other methods to reduce cost of hydrogen fuel cells
The research team is also experimenting with other materials in their hunt for a viable alternative to expensive platinum catalysts. The team is working on mimicking the process of photosynthesis as a method to produce hydrogen for hydrogen fuel cells. The team believes that its work will eventually lead to the development of new fuel cells that are both efficient and vastly more powerful than conventional models available today.