Researchers design new catalysts for hydrogen fuel production

December 1, 2014 0 By Angie Bergenson

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Research team develops catalyst comprised of single gold atoms

Tufts University School of Engineering, along with various other collaborators, has developed new catalysts that could lead to low cost production of new fuels, such as hydrogen. The catalysts are comprised of a structure of single gold atoms, which are bound with oxygen and sodium or potassium atoms supported by non-reactive silica materials. A team of researchers has demonstrated that these catalysts are able to perform on par with conventional catalysts that make use of platinum.

New catalysts are needed to reduce the costs associated with hydrogen fuel cells

Developing new catalysts has become a very important focus for groups interested in renewable energy, especially where fuel cells are involved. Hydrogen fuel cells have become quite popular because of their ability to produce large amounts of electrical power without also producing harmful emissions. The problem, however, is that these energy systems are significantly more expensive than other clean energy technologies. This is because they make use of precious metals that are rare and quite expensive themselves.

Next-gen catalysts are not yet ready for commercialization

Hydrogen fuel cell catalyst researchResearch groups from universities and national laboratories in the United States have been working on developing new catalysts that are less expensive, but just as capable as their traditional counterparts. This process has been time consuming, as finding the right materials that can be used for such an endeavor can be challenging. Some organizations have found success by using materials comprised of nickel or cobalt, but these catalysts are a long way from commercialization.

Cost of fuel cells could be dramatically affected by new catalysts

When it comes to hydrogen fuel, finding an inexpensive production method is becoming more important. Fuel cells have become very popular amongst automakers, many of whom plan to launch hydrogen-powered vehicles within the next few years. Without an efficient and inexpensive hydrogen production infrastructure in place, these fuel cell vehicles may struggle to find the success that their developers want to see. New catalysts can also be used in the production of various other fuels that produce no harmful emissions when used for energy.