Yesterday I was talking about how a venture capitalist was betting on iron and cobalt to replace platinum in fuel cells. Well, today, there is a new wager on the table.
Scientists are Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island are laying their cards on the table, saying cobalt and graphene are a better choice to replace platinum as the primary fuel cell catalyst.
According to Brown University, “There’s a new contender in the race to find an inexpensive alternative to platinum catalysts for use in hydrogen fuel cells.
“Brown University chemist Shouheng Sun (pictured above) and his students have developed a new material — a graphene sheet covered by cobalt and cobalt-oxide nanoparticles — that can catalyze the oxygen reduction reaction nearly as well as platinum does and is substantially more durable.”
The advantages of cobalt are that it is abundant to find around the world and cheap. The advantages of graphene are that scientists can assemble it honeycomb style in layers one atom thick so that it is small, durable, strong, conducts electricity well and is well served as a catalyst.
Replacing platinum in fuel cells with cobalt and graphene may not be the Holy Grail of cheap energy production, but it takes us one step closer to everyday use of fuel cells throughout our lives. And if enough of these steps are taken over the next couple of years, when we look back it will seem like we’ve traveled miles.