Researchers develop new catalyst for hydrogen fuel cells

Researchers develop new catalyst for hydrogen fuel cells

June 21, 2013 0 By Angie Bergenson

New catalyst could make hydrogen fuel cells less expensive

Hydrogen fuel cells are receiving more attention for their capabilities at energy production. While the promising properties of fuel cells are gaining more notice, so too are their faults, such as the amount of costly materials that they rely upon. Fuel cells need catalysts in order to function properly and these catalysts are almost exclusively made from platinum. This makes hydrogen fuel cells quite expensive, which also makes them somewhat unattractive in certain markets. A team of German researchers may have found a way to solve this problem.

Catalysts continue to be an issue for fuel cells

The team of researchers has developed a new catalyst using nanocatalyst material. The team suggests that this catalyst is capable of converting hydrogen and oxygen into water using a tenth of the platinum that is used to create conventional catalysts. The team discovered that the capabilities of the catalyst they developed are largely based on the atomic structure of the catalyst itself. This discovery is likely to open up new ways to develop catalysts that could lead to more efficient and effective hydrogen fuel cells.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells - Nanotechnology nanoparticlesNew catalyst comprised of platinum-nickel nanoparticles

The catalyst is comprised of octahedral-shaped platinum-nickel nanoparticles. Researchers note that the behavior of platinum and nickel particles makes them ideal in catalyst development. The particles used in this new catalyst are somewhat unlike those used in conventional models as they are flat rather than round. These particles arrange themselves on the surface of a catalyst in a way that accelerates the chemical reactions that occur in a hydrogen fuel cell.

Less expensive fuel cells could be more attractive to consumers and businesses

New catalysts are being developed at a rapid pace in order to make hydrogen fuel cells more viable alternative to conventional energy systems. Thus far, cost has been one of the major detractors of hydrogen fuel cells and cost is most often linked to the platinum catalysts that are used in most fuel cell models. If the issue of cost can be addressed, hydrogen fuel cells may become significantly more popular.