A cost-effective new alternative to fuel cell’s catalyst have been developed at Cornell University, promising a 5X reduction in cost, an output of 12X more than the conventional platinum catalyst, and a high stability even after more than 5,000 cycles.
An efficient and cheap hydrogen fuel cell would be an ideal renewable energy device as it produces electricity without burning the fuel, resulting to no greenhouse gas emissions, just water vapor. However, its catalysis remains a big challenge along with its costs.
Researchers at the Cornell Materials Energy Center have developed a new catalyst for fuel cells via chemical processing. The new catalyst, about 5 nm in diameter, is composed of a platinum-cobalt alloy core and a platinum shell. Like other nanomaterials, this catalyst owes its power to the high surface area, which in effect increases the area of contact. In addition to its nano-scale dimensions, the metal alloy has an ordered lattice or crystalline structure that strains the platinum shell resulting to an improved catalysis and stability.
“This could be a real significant improvement. It enhances the catalysis and cuts down the cost by a factor of five. We have not gone beyond 5,000 cycles but the results up to that point look very, very good,” says one of the researchers, Héctor Abruña, the E.M. Chamot Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology.