Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) have developed a platinum free fuel cell that uses carbon, iron and cobalt on the cathode end of the PEM hydrogen fuel cell. With platinum currently priced at $1,800 per ounce this element is one of the major costs when producing fuel cells.
According to LANL, “The Los Alamos researchers developed non-precious-metal catalysts for the part of the fuel cell that reacts with oxygen. The catalysts – which use carbon (partially derived from polyaniline in a high-temperature process) and inexpensive iron and cobalt instead of platinum – yielded high power output, good efficiency, and promising longevity.
“The researchers found that fuel cells containing the carbon-iron-cobalt catalyst synthesized by Wu not only generated currents comparable to the output of precious-metal-catalyst fuel cells, but held up favorably when cycled on and off—a condition that can damage inferior catalysts relatively quickly … the carbon-iron-cobalt catalyst fuel cells effectively completed the conversion of hydrogen and oxygen into water, rather than producing large amounts of undesirable hydrogen peroxide.”
Now, I’ve been talking about platinum free fuel cells for years as a means to speeding up the commercialization of hydrogen cars, bringing down costs of the entire vehicle. In fact, just last week, I had talked about scientists using molybdenum to replace platinum.
On other posts through the years I’ve talked about researchers who have developed hydrogen fuel cells that replace platinum with nickel and cobalt, titanium dioxide nanocrystals and doped carbon nanotubes. What is exciting to me is that researchers are attacking the problem of creating cheaper fuel cells on multiple levels using multiple materials to replace our dependence upon platinum for power.
If just a small amount of this research reaches commercialization it will mean fuel cells for everybody in the not too distant future.