New catalyst could make fuel cells an attractive optionAugust 27, 2012
Cambridge researchers develop new hydrogen production catalyst
Scientists from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom have come up with a way to produce hydrogen fuel in an efficient and cost effective manner. Researchers followed standard hydrogen fuel production methods that are commonly used today, but introduced a new catalyst to the process that made a significant difference to cost. The project was meant to discover how this catalyst might react in a real-world scenario and determine whether it would be viable to use as a replacement for more expensive versions.
Fuel cells heavily reliant on catalysts
Catalysts are key components of hydrogen fuel cells, as they facilitate the chemical reactions needed for the energy systems to function as they are meant to. Catalysts are most commonly comprised of platinum, a material that makes them extraordinarily expensive. The cost of platinum typically spikes the cost of fuel cell energy systems. As such, the overall cost of the energy systems has been one of their main detractors and has kept them away from entering the mainstream for several years. Researchers from Cambridge believe that making use of a different kind of catalyst could make fuel cells more attractive.
Catalyst comprised of cobalt rather than platinum
The catalyst developed by Cambridge researchers is comprised of cobalt, a relatively inexpensive material when compared to platinum. The catalyst can facilitate hydrogen production when introduced in pH neutral water that is surrounded by atmospheric oxygen. In tests, the cobalt catalyst has shown that it can produce hydrogen fuel on par with platinum. Researchers believe that this type of catalyst is sufficient in tackling the demands of most conventional fuel cell systems.
Researchers to continue developing systems that may make fuel cells more viable
Hydrogen fuel is becoming more popular in the world of industry, where fuel cells are used to generate large amounts of electricity. If fuel cells can be made more affordable through the use of more efficient technologies and affordable materials, fuel cells may gain even more momentum in the realm of industry. University of Cambridge researchers continue to experiment with the catalyst and have plans to develop a solar energy device that may be used with it in the future.
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