Researchers in Canada and Japan are working on two different methods to eliminate expensive platinum from fuel cells bringing down the costs of future hydrogen cars as much as $5,000. Researchers in California, on the other hand, are using nanotechnology to greatly reduce the amount of platinum needed in hydrogen fuel cells. All of the scientists are using carbon in one form or another to achieve results.
Researchers at the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique in Quebec have developed a catalyst that uses iron, nitrogen, and carbon producing 99 amps, which far exceeds other non-precious metal catalysts and matches typical platinum catalysts. The process involves creating more tiny pores in the carbon that nitrogen and iron can cling to in order to promote the chemical reactions.
Meanwhile, researchers at Nisshinbo Industries in Japan have developed a carbon alloy catalyst to replace platinum. This catalyst does not cause any corrosion of fuel cell parts unlike other metal catalysts can. Production costs can be dropped by 1/6 using this new catalyst.
And, in San Bernardino, California, Professor Yushan Yan is using nanotechnology to use ¼ less platinum in his fuel cells. Professor Yan is developing carbon nanotubes coated inside and out with a tiny amount of platinum in order to create a catalytic reaction.
Now, I’ve talked before about using carbon in fuel cells to replace or reduce platinum including doped carbon nanotubes and hairy carbon fuel cell electrodes. With all the talk about carbon caps, carbon footprints and reducing carbon in our environment it is a bit ironic that adding carbon may be the answer in bringing cost-effective zero emissions hydrogen fuel cell vehicles to market.