It was expected to see the manufacturing of fuel cells getting cheaper in the near future, but nobody thought it would go as far as the ALD (atomic layer deposition) method discovered by the researchers at the Aalto University in Finland.
The ALD makes it possible to put in only 60% of what was previously needed of the pricey catalyst quantity, a big obstacle so far in the wide use of fuel cells.
Why is that a big breakthrough? Without this new method, fuel cells would not have their great potential recognized. Why would fuel cells be widely taken up?
The main reason is because they represent the future of combustion engines and batteries, producing very little or non-polluting electricity. Not only that, but they have a bigger electricity output, producing it without noise or maintenance fuss.
Now that you’re hopefully convinced about the importance of fuel cells, let’s see what this ALD method is all about. Fuel cells usually have a layer of expensive reacting noble metal powder over the anode. The ALD method can make this layer of commercially available materials become thinner and cheaper.
Even alcohol fuel cells stand to profit from this new finding, using methanol or ethanol as fuel, since storage is easier to manufacture in this case than with hydrogen. Also, instead of having platinum as catalyst, one can easily substitute it with palladium, which has the advantage of being twice as cheap.
So this method seems to be the next big step in the broad usage of fuel cells in 5 to 10 years, given that right now they are only present in the spacecraft environments and prototype futuristic cars.