Cheap Catalysts for Fuel Cells
Two researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a low-cost catalyst for fuel cells: instead of the usual noble metal platinum, their reaction accelerators are based on a chemical compound in which the much cheaper metal cob alt is the active component.
Rajaesh Bashyam and Piotr Zelenay integrated the iron-like element into a plastic matrix of carbon, nitrogen and hydrogen atoms, which gives the complex stability. According to the developers, fuel cells that work with the new material can achieve power densities of around 0.15 watts per square centimeter. This is quite comparable to conventional fuel cells. In addition, they show no signs of wear, even after more than a hundred hours of operation.
Fuel cells convert hydrogen or other compounds with a high hydrogen content such as natural gas or methane together with oxygen into water in an environmentally friendly way, releasing energy in the process. They are therefore considered to be clean alternatives to today's internal combustion engines, for example. However, their production has so far been very expensive, which is partly due to the catalysts with which the electrodes are coated and which make a controlled energy generation process possible in the first place.