Carbon Nanotubes Make Fuel Cells Cheaper

February 9, 2009 by Lisa Zyga weblog
Researchers from the University of Dayton have showed that carbon nanotubes can replace platinum as the catalyst in fuel cells, which could significantly reduce fuel cells' overall cost.

(PhysOrg.com) -- As fuel cells are becoming more popular due to their potential use in applications such as hydrogen-powered vehicles, auxiliary power systems, and electronic devices, the need for the precious metal platinum is also increasing. In fuel cells, platinum is often used as the catalyst for oxygen reduction by splitting oxygen molecules into oxygen ions. However, platinum is rare and expensive: in a fuel cell for a typical car, the platinum catalyst costs about $4,000.

Now, researchers from the University of Dayton have showed that carbon nanotubes can replace platinum as the catalyst in fuel cells, which could significantly reduce fuel cells' overall cost. Carbon nanotubes could even have advantages over platinum, since they could be less resistant to corrosion.

The Dayton researchers, led by Liming Dai, doped an array of nanotubes with nitrogen (VA-NCNTs) to prevent the carbon from reacting with oxygen and forming carbon monoxide (CO). Without the nitrogen, CO would build up on the surface and shorten the catalyst's lifetime. With the nitrogen, the nanotubes are more resistant to this carbon monoxide corrosion and have the potential for long-term operation.

The researchers have not built a complete prototype of a fuel cell with nitrogen-containing carbon nanotubes, and they have not estimated the cost to produce them. However, since carbon is abundant and cheap compared with platinum, the overall cost of the proposed design would likely be much less expensive. Hopefully, the metal-free catalyst will assist researchers in moving fuel cell technology forward.

More information: Kuanping Gong et al. (2009) "Nitrogen-Doped Carbon Nanotube Arrays with High Electrocatalytic Activity for Oxygen Reduction." Science Vol. 323. no. 5915, p. 753 doi: 10.1126/science.1166510.

via: Ecogeek

© 2009 PhysOrg.com

Explore further: Cleaning up bunker oil with white rot fungi

Related Stories

Where is solar power headed?

July 22, 2015

Most experts agree that to have a shot at curbing the worst impacts of climate change, we need to extricate our society from fossil fuels and ramp up our use of renewable energy.

Are fuel cells environmentally friendly? Not always

July 15, 2015

Fuel cells are regarded as the technology of the future for both cars and household heating systems. As a result, they have a key role to play in the switch to renewable energies. But are fuel cells always more environmentally ...

Recommended for you

Meet the high-performance single-molecule diode

July 29, 2015

A team of researchers from Berkeley Lab and Columbia University has passed a major milestone in molecular electronics with the creation of the world's highest-performance single-molecule diode. Working at Berkeley Lab's Molecular ...

Reshaping the solar spectrum to turn light to electricity

July 28, 2015

When it comes to installing solar cells, labor cost and the cost of the land to house them constitute the bulk of the expense. The solar cells—made often of silicon or cadmium telluride—rarely cost more than 20 percent ...

Could stronger, tougher paper replace metal?

July 24, 2015

Researchers at the University of Maryland recently discovered that paper made of cellulose fibers is tougher and stronger the smaller the fibers get. For a long time, engineers have sought a material that is both strong (resistant ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

moj85
1 / 5 (1) Feb 09, 2009
Post the article once a prototype has been made. *yawn*
Nerdle
not rated yet May 12, 2009
Agreed. Also yes carbon is all around us, but carbon nanotubes are not cheap to make

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.