Replacing Platinum in Fuel Cell Technology

Oct 20, 2009 by Miranda Marquit weblog
Image source: Nikkei Electronics Asia

( -- One of the biggest hindrances to the development of fuel cell technology is its cost. In order to work properly, polymer electrolyte fuel cells require a catalyst. So far, though, the most efficient catalyst for use with these fuel cells is platinum. And, as you probably know, platinum is one of the most expensive materials out there. The high cost of platinum is stunting the further development of fuel cells for use on a broader basis. Help may be coming, however, in the form of niobium and titanium.

A Japanese company, Showa Denko, has developed a catalyst meant for polymer electrolyte fuel cells that use and as the main components, with the addition of carbon and . A catalyst made from the new blend could replace platinum catalysts in the fuel cells. These new catalysts also have the advantage of not oxidizing, as platinum does in the air electrode. And, of course, both niobium and titanium are less expensive than platinum.

Everything isn't set, however. Catalysts based on niobium or titanium have not shown the same level of performance in fuel cells as platinum. Nikkei Electronics Asia reports on the performance issues faced by Showa Denko:

"Platinum performance is still four or five times higher," says a source at Showa Denko. The firm joined the NEDO project in July 2008, and says there is still considerable room for improvement. For example, the catalyst particles are large at about 40nm, but they expect performance to rise with smaller particle sizes.

Even with some of the kinks to be worked out, though, this is still a step forward for technology. Being able to reduce the cost of fuel cells would enable the technology to be more widely adopted going forward.

© 2009

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User comments : 6

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not rated yet Oct 20, 2009
And my prediction is that almost nobody will be using fuel cells in 20 years. It just doesn't make sense.
not rated yet Oct 20, 2009
And my prediction is that almost nobody will be using fuel cells in 20 years. It just doesn't make sense.

Are you serious or sarcastic?
not rated yet Oct 20, 2009
Are you serious or sarcastic?

I read that as 'spastic' when my eyes skimmed over it. Ahem.

As for fuel cells, if the issues can be ironed out, I can easily see them being used to power all manner of small devices.
not rated yet Oct 21, 2009
Hydrogen as an environmentally friendly energy
source is picking up speed.
not rated yet Nov 03, 2009
For the most part i was being serious. You lose more than half of the energy when you split water to attain hydrogen. That is wasted energy which is already scarce enough thank you. So yes, you will probably never see fuel cells driving cars as it doesn't make sense.

There are other technologies which show much more promise.
not rated yet Nov 07, 2009
Hydrogen isn't energy generation. It's energy storage, and the only loss would come about from not having a proper ratio of oxygen to hydrogen on recombination, or having inefficient energy capture.

Name one more efficient energy storage mechanism.

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