While some countries like South Africa are ramping up R&D and production of fuel cells because this country sits upon 80-percent of the world’s supply of platinum, the most expensive part of most fuel cells, many scientists are experimenting with alternatives to this costly metal.
One of the benefits of switching to hydrogen fuel cells is independence from foreign fossil fuels. But, then who wants to be dependent upon foreign platinum? The answer to this riddle may lay in the use of B12 vitamin supplements.
Scientists in Taipei City, Taiwan at the Institute of Atomic and Molecular Science are experimenting with doping carbon with vitamin B12 in order to produce a cheap, yet powerful fuel cell free from noble metals.
According to RSC.org, “In order to generate electricity, most modern fuel cell devices require an oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) at the cathode of the cell, whilst simultaneously, another chemical (often hydrogen) is oxidized at the anode. This redox reaction for power generation has been limited by the slow ORR process, which in nature requires complex enzymes to proceed at any meaningful rate …
“However, Chen and co-workers have dispensed with the need for platinum altogether, by using cheap carbon that has vitamin B12 dispersed throughout, to form the cathode of their polymer electrolyte fuel cell (PEFC). The performance of this cathode doesn’t quite match that of platinum based cathodes, but at a fraction of the cost, this cathode could open up real opportunities for the practical application of these fuel cells.”
So while your Wheaties, Corn Flakes and power drinks are supplemented with vitamin B12 to promote healthy brain and nervous system functioning is it any wonder that this “wonder drug” would beef up the power of a fuel cell as well? So, a few years from now when you’re zipping down the highway in your fuel cell vehicle, sipping an energy drink you can thank the scientists and engineers who have helped to make this healthy connection a reality.