Researchers develop new low-cost catalyst for hydrogen fuel cells

July 17, 2015 0 By Stephen Vagus

Improving fuel cell catalysts continues to be a subject of interest for the scientific community

Fuel cell vehicles are gaining more attention, but not all of it is good. While these vehicles have received praise for their efficiency and environmentally friendly nature, they have also been criticized for being extremely expensive. Hydrogen fuel cells are costly to produce, largely due to the fact that they use platinum in order to operate effectively. The high cost of fuel cells also makes vehicles that use them expensive, which makes them less attractive to consumers.

Researchers design non-metal catalyst for fuel cells

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison have been working on an alternative to traditional platinum catalysts that could make fuel cells less expensive. The research team has devised a new fuel cell design that makes use of a non-metal catalyst, which has shown that it can perform as efficiently as its platinum counterparts. This catalyst may make fuel cells more affordable, which may be good news for the auto industry and its plans to commercialize fuel cell vehicles.

Catalysts may become less expensive as alternatives to platinum are found

University of Wisconsin-Madison - Hydrogen Fuel ResearchExpensive catalysts have been one of the major challenges associated with commercializing hydrogen fuel cells. These catalysts are necessary, as they power the chemical reactions that occur within a fuel cell, but their high cost has created a barrier against adoption, which has allowed only large organizations to purchase and use hydrogen fuel cells. Small fuel cells are somewhat less expensive than their larger counterparts, but still remain too costly for most consumers to afford.

New catalyst proves to be as efficient as platinum-based counterparts

One of the problems associated with finding an alternative to platinum is ensuring that new catalysts are able to perform as well as their conventional counterparts. Platinum has proven to be one of the best materials available for catalysts, as it is quite resilient against chemical corrosion. The new catalyst developed by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison is comprised of non-metal molecules called nitroxyls, which are quite inexpensive and have shown themselves to be more efficient than platinum when used in catalysts.