University of Birmingham researchers have created a gelatin (say Jell-O!) structure to take the place of expensive and rare metal platinum in fuel cells. The researchers use gelatin combined with iron and magnesium salts to create the catalyst.
According to the University of Birmingham, “The Birmingham chemists have combined gelatin – the same gelatin that is used to make jelly – with iron and magnesium to create a material that performs almost as well as a commercial platinum catalyst, but is considerably cheaper.
“The new material performs so well because the iron and magnesium salts cause the gelatin to foam, creating a sponge-like structure. When this is heated, nanoparticles of a compound called iron carbide form inside the sponge. These nanoparticles can be easily dissolved, leaving tiny holes rather like hollow capsules, in the walls of the sponge. Together, the capsules and the sponge-structure create an extremely high surface area, which is crucial for allowing the gaseous reactants to flow through the fuel cell catalyst.”
Replacing platinum in fuel cells has challenged many scientists over the years. But, the researchers at the University of Birmingham believe they have a winner with the combination of iron, magnesium (which are cheap) and gelatin (which is cheap and easy to make). So, say Jell-O to my little friend, the gelatin-based hydrogen fuel cell.