Hydrogen fuel cells are getting a lot of attention, much of it directed by the auto industry. As more people become aware of these energy systems, they are able to point out faults that could make fuel cells unpopular. Thus far, two specific issues are concerning consumers around the world. The first of which is cost. Fuel cells are notorious for their use of expensive materials. The second issue is efficiency. A large number of fuel cells typically do not generate more electricity than they consume. Researchers from the University of Central Florida claim to have solved these problems.
Lead by professor Sergey Stolbov, university researchers have developed a new method of creating fuel cells that increases their efficiency and affordability. They approached the issue with the concept of a sandwich in mind. While it may sound a bit strange, the results of the approach have, thus far, been favorable. Researchers coated inexpensive materials with small amounts of gold and palladium and then layered them together. Using these materials and the layering method, researchers have been able to replace traditional platinum catalysts.
The catalyst is perhaps the most expensive component of a fuel cell. The component is responsible for powering the chemical conversions that allow the fuel cell to generate electricity. Traditional catalysts are not resilient against the corrosive effects of these chemical conversions. By replacing the catalyst, researchers have been able to reduce the cost of fuel cells and improve their efficiency.