CellEra’s new platinum-free fuel cell could be the cleanest engine ever created. Instead of using an extremely expensive rare earth metal as the fuel cell’s catalyst, CellEra employs a catalyzed, solid polymer electrolyte. The new catalytic core is not only cleaner, it also won’t corrode like older fuel cell technology and it can even help reduce overall costs. The Israel-based green energy company recently revealed its new device at the Fuel Choices Summit in Tel Aviv.
Second generation fuels cells generally use costly platinum as a catalyst to separate the electrons and protons in hydrogen. There’s two problems with this – the material is exorbitantly expensive, and it’s sensitive to carbon monoxide and requires additional systems to prevent corrosion.
CellEra says its fuel cell is different because it conducts hydroxyl ions rather than protons. It also has a slightly alkaline polymer electrolyte membrane (the membrane through which electrons travel), which enables the use of a low-cost transition metal catalyst in place of platinum.
By removing platinum from the equation CellEra can use lightweight aluminum infrastructure to build its fuel cell, which reduces the device’s weight and total cost. To further reduce production costs, the conducting membrane can be made of a relatively inexpensive polymer.
The CellEra fuel cell is designed for a variety of uses including hydrogen powered vehicles and stationary purposes, such as electric generators. That said it could be years before we see this technology implemented into real world cars and homes. There’s still a lot of work and prototyping to do, especially since CellEra just debuted the technology at the Fuel Choices Summit, but it’s certainly something to look forward to.
Second Image © CellEra