Vitamin B12 has recently been determined as one of the many solutions for cheaper hydrogen fuel cells, that convert hydrogen into electricity and have water as their only output. Because they currently use platinum, hydrogen fuel cells are being expensive – much over the price of lithium ion batteries, for example.
The research, performed by Taiwanese scientists from the Institute of Atomic and Molecular Science in Taipei, has looked for a “non-noble-metal catalyst” to replace the expensive platinum.
Kuei-Hsien Chen explains that this is a major issue the industry is struggling to deal with.
First of all, how does a hydrogen fuel cell work?
To produce electricity, a hydrogen fuel cell needs two reactions to happen: an oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) at the cathode (-) and an oxidization reaction at the anode (+). Because the ORR reaction is slow, there are few catalyst materials able to do the job. Platinum has so far been the best solution.
Now, by using cheap carbon enriched with vitamin B12, the researchers have formed a novel cathode that, although not as efficiently as its platinum counterpart, does the oxygen reduction reaction pretty well and could be used in non-expensive applications that need to use a dependable energy source other than lithium ion batteries.
The power source is also the main issue standing in the way of electric car development worldwide. It’s not that batteries can’t power a car for sufficient miles or charge quickly (theoretically), but if they do so the prices are so prohibitive today, that nobody could afford an electric car.
With hydrogen, the issue is double: storing the gas efficiently and then again efficiently converting it into electricity, but the outcome is that it’s infinitely cleaner to use hydrogen than lithium ion (or any other kind of) batteries.