Researchers aim to cut down the cost of hydrogen fuel cellsMarch 4, 2016
Laboratories team to find a replacement for platinum in fuel cells
Researchers from the Argonne National Laboratory and the Los Alamos National Laboratory have begun working together in order to develop less expensive fuel cells. The two organizations are working through the Electrocatalysis Consortium, which was formed by the Department of Energy. The initiative is meant to find alternatives to the platinum used to make fuel cell catalysts. These catalysts are required to ensure that fuel cells operate effectively, allowing electrolysis to take form within a fuel cell energy system.
Automakers want fuel cells to become less expensive
Finding ways to make fuel cells less expensive has become a major priority for those interested in clean transportation. The auto industry has become heavily involved in the fuel cell sector, with several companies having already developed hydrogen fuel cells to power a new generation of clean vehicles. Automakers have found that fuel cells are quite capable of powering vehicles in an effective manner. The problem, however, is that these energy systems are quite expensive due to their use of platinum. This has an effect on the overall price of fuel cell vehicles, making them less attractive to consumers in general.
Platinum makes for very costly fuel cell systems
Approximately half of the total cost associated with automotive fuel cell systems comes from their use of platinum. Researchers from the Argonne National Laboratory and the Los Alamos National Laboratory will work together to find a replacement for platinum, in the near future. Research efforts in other parts of the world have made progress in finding alternatives to platinum, such as nickel and cobalt. These materials are both inexpensive and function in a similar way to platinum, if they are used correctly.
Finding alternatives to platinum has become a priority
Replacing platinum is expected to make hydrogen fuel cells more attractive to those interested in renewable energy. These energy systems are not only being used in the auto industry, of course, and they have been providing electrical power to various industries over the past several years. As they become less expensive, they may see more use in emerging sectors.
In order for the current fuel cell to compete with standard internal combustion engine , the amount of platinum must be reduced by more than %60.That means the amount of platinum must be reduced by 1/4. Another problem with platinum is that it is very sensitive to common ingredients which are present in the hydrogen gas such as carbon monoxide and methane. Most industrial hydrogen is produced by steam reforming which contains carbon monoxide and methane.Carbon monoxide can basically stop the hydrogen reaction.
Fuel cell are like batteries and there is a material that separate the anode ( where hydrogen reaction occurs) from the cathode ( where oxygen reduction reaction occurs). This material is called electrolyte or polymer electrolyte. This electrolyte is some kind of polymer that does not allow gas or liquid to go or flow through.This polymer electrolyte allows only hydrogen ions to go or flow through. Most commercial fuel cells use Nafion ( a product of Du point) which is expensive to produce plus too much pollutions are produced during manufacturing of Nafion.