Researchers create more efficient hydrogen fuel cells

Researchers create more efficient hydrogen fuel cells
Research underway in the US could improve the efficiency and cost effectiveness of future hydrogen fuel cells.

A team from the University of Central Florida found that more abundant materials could be used as catalysts in the manufacturing process, instead of the rare metal platinum which is impractical for large scale use due to its high cost.

The researchers started by creating a sandwich-like structure made up of layers of cheaper and more abundant elements to make it more effective.

According to Professor Sergey Stolbov, the outer monoatomic layer of the structure was made up of either palladium or gold, while the layer below it worked to enhance the energy conversion rate. It also acted to protect the catalyst from the acidic environment.

The two layers were placed on the bottom slice of the sandwich - an inexpensive substrate called tungsten - which also played a role in the stability of the catalyst.

"We are very encouraged by our first attempts that suggest that we can create two cost effective and highly active palladium and gold based catalysts for hydrogen fuel cells, a clean and renewable energy source," said Prof Stolbov. "By creating these structures, more energy is converted, and because the more expensive and rare metals are not used, the cost could be significantly less."

Stolbov and his team are now working with the US Department of Energy to determine whether their results can be duplicated and whether or not the technology can be scaled up.

Laura Hopperton

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