Cobalt-graphene material could replace platinum catalysts

Cobalt-graphene material could replace platinum catalysts

October 22, 2012 0 By Stephen Vagus

Cobalt-graphene material developed by Brown University researchers

Hydrogen fuel cells may be growing in popularity, but they are not likely to become mainstream if their cost is not reduced. Currently, fuel cells are notoriously expensive, largely due to the platinum catalysts they use to generate electricity. Without these catalysts, fuel cells are little more than high-tech paperweights. Platinum is, however, an extremely expensive material, causing the price for fuel cells to soar. Because the energy systems are so promising, researchers from Brown University have been working to solve the problem presented by catalysts by developing a cobalt-graphene material.

New material nearly as effective as platinum

The vast majority of fuel cells cannot operate without a catalyst. Because of this, researchers from Brown University are looking to replace the platinum that is often used in these catalysts with a cobalt-graphene alternative. Researchers have taken a thin sheet of graphene material and coated it in cobalt-oxide nanoparticles. This combination of materials is able to catalyze the oxygen reduction reaction as well as platinum is, making the cobalt-graphene catalyst a promising replacement for their expensive counterparts.

Material boasts of highest performance of any non-platinum catalyst

Acciording to Professor Shaujun Guo, the cobalt-graphene material boasts of the highest performance of any non-platinum catalyst made to date. The catalyst is pioneered by Brown University chemist Shuoheng Sun, who has spent years researching and developing non-platinum catalysts. For years, these catalysts have been unable to live up to the expectations of the science community. The cobalt-graphene catalyst is among the first to show real promise in finally being an adequate replacement for platinum.

Researchers continue to tune new material

Tests of the cobalt-graphene material have shown that it is only slightly slower at producing the necessary chemical reactions a fuel cell need to generate electricity than platinum catalyst. Researchers believe that this problem can be solved by tuning the material. Once this problem is solved, the cobalt-graphene catalyst could effectively reduce the cost of hydrogen fuel cells by a significant amount.

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