Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Climate friendly fuel cells for hydrogen cars have come one step closer

Date:
July 21, 2013
Source:
University of Copenhagen
Summary:
Climate friendly fuel cells for hydrogen cars have come one step closer. Researchers have shown how to build fuel cells that produce as much electricity as current models, but require markedly less of the rare and valuable precious metal platinum.

Associate professor Matthias Arenz has shown the way to climate friendly cars.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Copenhagen

Climate friendly fuel cells for hydrogen cars have come one step closer. Researchers at the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen, have shown how to build fuel cells that produce as much electricity as current models, but require markedly less of the rare and valuable precious metal platinum. Their discovery was published in the jornal Nature Materials.

Cheaper hydrogen cars with new fuel cell design

Fuel cells ought to replace internal combustion engines in our cars. They are better for the climate and for the environment. Partly because fuel cells use the fuel much more efficiently. Partly because they emit no smoke, no smog, no CO2.

Unfortunately the fuel cells have a technical limitation. They only work if they contain the metal platinum which is less common and more costly than gold. This has been a considerable obstacle to the development of the energy efficient power generators.

Reduced need for metal increases economic yield

Matthias Arenz is an associate professor at the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen. In collaboration with researchers from the Technical University München and the Max Planck Institute for Iron Research in Düsseldorf he has built and tested a number of catalysts, the devices at the heart of a fuel cell. Arenz is confident that his discovery can show the way for economically viable fuel cell production.

In the lab we have shown, that we can generate the same amount of electricity with just a fifth of the platinum. We don't expect to do quite that well in an everyday situation, but a marked reduction in platinum need is certainly realistic. And that will be a huge financial advantage.

One of the most costly elements

The precious metal platinum is one of the rarest elements on earth. Most of it is to be found in South Africa, where 80 percent of world production is mined while Russia extracts another ten percent. This means that the metal is strategically important.

In 2012 world production was 179 metric tons. By comparison gold production was 2.700 tons. And while the cost of platinum in 2010 was 1.600 dollars per Troy Ounce gold sold at just 1.300 dollars for a Troy Ounce.

Sheets, particles or nanoparticles

Fuel cells produce electricity from hydrogen and oxygen in a so called catalytic reaction which is kept going by platinum. The greatest effect is achieved by flowing your gasses over a sheet or film of platinum but that requires large amounts of the costly element. Instead modern fuel cells are made with particles, little granules, of platinum. What the research in Arenz' group showed was, that these granules could be placed more efficiently.

Five times more electricity for every gram of metal

When tested in the laboratory, catalysts bought on the market today will produce around one Ampere for every milligram of metal. The Arenz group developed a fuel cell catalyst that got a whopping eight Ampere per milligram of platinum. Their initial instinct was that they got a bigger power yield, because they had used smaller granules of platinum. But careful measurement revealed something much more surprising.

Unexpected effect discovered by chance

The key factor leading to platinum savings might never have been discovered by the group. They had produced a number of catalysts with varying sizes of platinum particles. By chance the particles were very tightly packed on a few of the sample catalysts and as it turned out, the packing of the particles was much more significant than the size. An effect, that the researchers have dubbed the "Particle Proximity Effect."

Next step will be to develop a chemical method to produce tightly packed catalysts on an industrial scale. Arenz has a few ideas for that as well, so he and his group have started applying for grants.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Copenhagen. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Markus Nesselberger, Melanie Roefzaad, R. Fayçal Hamou, P. Ulrich Biedermann, Florian F. Schweinberger, Sebastian Kunz, Katrin Schloegl, Gustav K. H. Wiberg, Sean Ashton, Ueli Heiz, Karl J. J. Mayrhofer, Matthias Arenz. The effect of particle proximity on the oxygen reduction rate of size-selected platinum clusters. Nature Materials, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nmat3712

Cite This Page:

University of Copenhagen. "Climate friendly fuel cells for hydrogen cars have come one step closer." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 July 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130721161749.htm>.
University of Copenhagen. (2013, July 21). Climate friendly fuel cells for hydrogen cars have come one step closer. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130721161749.htm
University of Copenhagen. "Climate friendly fuel cells for hydrogen cars have come one step closer." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130721161749.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Government Approves East Coast Oil Exploration

Government Approves East Coast Oil Exploration

AP (July 18, 2014) — The Obama administration approved the use of sonic cannons to discover deposits under the ocean floor by shooting sound waves 100 times louder than a jet engine through waters shared by endangered whales and turtles. (July 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sunken German U-Boat Clearly Visible For First Time

Sunken German U-Boat Clearly Visible For First Time

Newsy (July 18, 2014) — The wreckage of the German submarine U-166 has become clearly visible for the first time since it was discovered in 2001. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: U.S. Must Have "smartest Airports, Best Power Grid"

Obama: U.S. Must Have "smartest Airports, Best Power Grid"

Reuters - US Online Video (July 17, 2014) — President Barak Obama stopped by at a lunch counter in Delaware before making remarks about boosting the nation's infrastructure. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Crude Oil Prices Bounce Back After Falling Below $100 a Barrel

Crude Oil Prices Bounce Back After Falling Below $100 a Barrel

TheStreet (July 16, 2014) — Oil Futures are bouncing back after tumbling below $100 a barrel for the first time since May yesterday. Jeff Grossman is the president of BRG Brokerage and trades at the NYMEX. Grossman tells TheStreet the Middle East is always a concern for oil traders. Oil prices were pushed down in recent weeks on Libya increasing its production. Supply disruptions in Iraq fading also contributed to prices falling. News from China's economic front showing a growth for the second quarter also calmed fears on its slowdown. Jeff Grossman talks to TheStreet's Susannah Lee on this and more on the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration (EIA) report. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins