Stanford University researchers set their sights on carbon nanotubes to solve the problems facing hydrogen fuel cells

Stanford University researchers set their sights on carbon nanotubes to solve the problems facing hydrogen fuel cells

May 29, 2012 0 By John Max

Problems with fuel cells could be remedied through nanotechnology

Nanotechnology may hold the key to the future of hydrogen fuel cells and other hydrogen-based technologies. Hydrogen fuel cells have long been host to a sleuth of technological problems concerning efficiency and cost. These problems have spurred criticism of the technology and hampered their adoption for decades. Hydrogen is beginning to gain a great deal of attention recently as the world begins to take alternative energy more seriously, but the lingering problems facing fuel cells have delayed progress significantly.

Defective nanotubes could be useful

Researchers from Stanford University have been working on solving the problems facing hydrogen fuel cells and have made a great deal of progress recently. Some focus has been spent on carbon nanotubes, which have garnered acclaim due to their high electric conductivity and durability. Researchers have found that these nanotubes could be useful in reducing the price of hydrogen fuel cells. It is not the perfect nanotubes that are useful, however, rather it is the defective tubes that yield the most benefit.

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Replacing platinum can make fuel cells more affordable

Hydrogen fuel cells make use of platinum for the catalyst they need to operate. The fuel cell model determines the amount of platinum that is used, but a significant portion of the material is consumed by the fuel cell industry nonetheless. The price of platinum has skyrocketed over the past five years and is now at over $2,000 per ounce. Stanford researchers believe that defective nanotubes could replace platinum entirely in fuel cells.

More affordable fuel cells could make hydrogen a more viable energy

These nanotubes are riddled with impurities and defections. While these problems would make the materials unusable for other applications, these are considered to be perfect candidates for fuel cells. Researchers have found that multi-walled carbon nanotubes with shredded outer walls have a heightened catalytic activity, allowing them to conduct electricity more effectively. Using these nanotubes, researchers believe that the price of hydrogen fuel cells can be significantly reduced. Less expensive fuel cells is likely to spur the growth and adoption of hydrogen fuel.