Hydrogen fuel cells may get cheaper thanks to new catalyst process

Hydrogen fuel cells may get cheaper thanks to new catalyst process

December 12, 2012 0 By Tami Hood
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Hydregon Fuel Cells Research

Hydrogen fuel cells receive criticism due to cost

Recently, the U.S. discovered that it was home to a massive amount of natural gas, which is contained in shale deposits founds throughout the country. With an abundant source of natural gas, hydrogen fuel cells are likely to find powerful traction in the country, especially in regards to transportation. Fuel cells have become a major focus of the auto industry in recent years, with most major automakers planning to commercialize hydrogen-powered vehicles by 2015. There is, of course, the issue of cost that must be tackled.

Fuel cells win acclaim for energy production, lose favor due to expense

Hydrogen fuel cells are notoriously expensive. Though the energy systems have garnered praise for their ability to produce large amounts of electrical power, the energy systems are widely criticized as being overly expensive. The cost of hydrogen fuel cells is due to the materials used in their manufacture, especially the material that comprises the catalysts fuel cells use to function properly. Platinum is used to make the catalyst of a fuel cell, chosen because of its resistance to corrosive chemical conditions and electrocatalytic properties.

New method to develop catalysts discovered

Researchers around the world have been working to find a way to reduce the cost of hydrogen fuel cells, either by replacing platinum or finding a more efficient use for the expensive material. Scientists from the National Institute of Science and Technology have discovered a new method of applying ultrathin platinum layers on a fuel cell catalyst. Thomas Moffat, a metallurgy researcher with the institute, suggests that this method is both “incredibly cheap and easy to implement.”

Better catalysts mean more affordable fuel cells

The method devised by Moffat and his colleagues is resoundingly faster that common catalyst development methods. Moreover, it requires much less platinum than other methods, effectively lowering the cost of catalyst manufacture. If the method can be commercialized and adopted by the fuel cell industry, hydrogen fuel cells may become much more attractive to consumers and businesses due to more alluring costs.