Researchers discover a way to significantly reduce the production costs of fuel cells

Dec 20, 2011

Researchers at Aalto University in Finland have developed a new and significantly cheaper method of manufacturing fuel cells. A noble metal nanoparticle catalyst for fuel cells is prepared using atomic layer deposition (ALD). This ALD method for manufacturing fuel cells requires 60 per cent less of the costly catalyst than current methods.

"This is a significant discovery, because researchers have not been able to achieve savings of this magnitude before with materials that are commercially available," says Docent Tanja Kallio of Aalto University.

Fuel cells could replace polluting that are presently in use. However, in a fuel cell, must be sped up by using a . The high price of catalysts is one of the biggest hurdles to the wide adoption of fuel cells at the moment.

The most commonly used fuel cells cover with expensive noble metal powder which reacts well with the fuel. By using the Aalto University researchers’ ALD method, this cover can be much thinner and more even than before which lowers costs and increases quality.

A noble metal nanoparticle catalyst for fuel cells is prepared using atomic layer deposition. This ALD method for manufacturing fuel cells requires 60 per cent less of the costly catalyst than current methods. Credit: Adolfo Vera

With this study, researchers are developing better alcohol fuel cells using methanol or ethanol as their fuel. It is easier to handle and store alcohols than commonly used hydrogen. In alcohol fuel cells, it is also possible to use palladium as a catalyst. The most common catalyst for hydrogen fuel cells is platinum, which is twice as expensive as palladium. This means that alcohol fuel cells and palladium will bring a more economical product to the market.

Fuel cells can create electricity that produces very little or even no pollution. They are highly efficient, making more energy and requiring less fuel than other devices of equal size. They are also quiet and require low maintenance, because there are no moving parts.

In the future, fuel cells are expected to power electric vehicles and replace batteries, among other things. Despite their high price, fuel cells have already been used for a long time to produce energy in isolated environments, such as space crafts. These results are based on preliminary testing with anodes using a palladium catalyst. Commercial production could start in 5-10 years.

This study was published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C.

Explore further: Intelligent façades generating electricity, heat and algae biomass

More information: Atomic Layer Deposition Preparation of Pd Nanoparticles on a Porous Carbon Support for Alcohol Oxidation. The Journal of Physical Chemistry C, 2011, 115, 23067–23073. dx.doi.org/10.1021/jp2083659

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Carbon Nanotubes Make Fuel Cells Cheaper

Feb 09, 2009

(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 ...

Replacing Platinum in Fuel Cell Technology

Oct 20, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- 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 ...

Recommended for you

Fuel cells to connect our smartphones to the outside world

14 hours ago

The potential of hydrogen and fuel cell applications goes way beyond the development of green cars. The FCPOWEREDRBS team is determined to prove this with a Fuel Cell technology to power off-grid telecom stations. They believe ...

The state of shale

Dec 19, 2014

University of Pittsburgh researchers have shared their findings from three studies related to shale gas in a recent special issue of the journal Energy Technology, edited by Götz Veser, the Nickolas A. DeCecco Professor of Che ...

User comments : 0

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.