Nanotechnology may unlock the future of fuel cells

Nanotechnology may unlock the future of fuel cells

June 28, 2012 0 By Julie Campbell

Inherent problems with fuel cells keep them from mass adoption

Fuel cells have been gaining more attention in recent years. This is partly due to their ability to generate clean energy in an efficient manner. As the energy systems grab more attention, their inherent faults are being highlighted. Cost, energy production, and the lack of a support infrastructure are often the most glaring issues that have sparked concerns for the future of fuel cells. For years, these issues have kept fuel cells in the realm of obscurity, but the world’s need for alternative energy systems has demanded that these issues finally be resolved.

Carbon nanotubes considered viable replacement of platinum catalysts

The science and technology communities have taken a keen interest in fuel cells, hoping to find ways to solve the problems of the energy systems. Researchers and scientists all over the world have made strides in improving fuel cell technology, but few advances have made the energy systems universally acceptable. Nanotechnology may hold the key. Many within the science and technology communities have been experimenting with carbon nanotubes and how they can be used within a fuel cell. Currently, the most popular use for these nanotubes is to replace the platinum catalyst that is used in most conventional fuel cell systems.

Carbon nanotubes boast of heightened electrocatalytic activity

Platinum catalysts facilitate the chemical reactions that occur within a fuel cell. These reactions are part of the energy production process. Platinum has proven to be one of the most effective materials for this process as it can withstand the oxidizing effects of the chemical reactions while allowing for high levels of energy production. Carbon nanotubes may be a viable replacement, however, due to their flexibility in terms of application. Nanotubes doped with nitrogen, for instance, can act as an effective catalyst due to heightened electrocatalytic activity. These nanotubes, as well as other forms of nanotechnology, could boast of a number of attractive features, such as self-cleaning, higher energy production, and lower cost.

Lack of financial support could stunt the progress of nanotechnology in fuel cells

Nanotechnology may hold the key to the future success of fuel cells, but more work is required for this technology to be widely implemented. Without a monumental level of support for fuel cells, the technology may never find its way to mass adoption amongst fuel cell manufacturers. Currently, the demand for more affordable fuel cells is high, but the lack of financial support for research and development efforts has yet to reach a significant level.


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