When it comes to hydrogen fuel cells, they are worth their weight in platinum. A team of researchers at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Copehagen has developed technology that allows the cells to produce as much electricity as current counterparts without having to use as much pricey platinum. Better for the environment than internal combustion engines, fuel cells are efficient, and they do not emit smog or CO2.
Published in the journal, Nature Materials scientists from the University of Copenhagen, and the Technical University München and the Max Planck Institute for Iron Research detailed how they were able to generate the same amount of energy with only one-fifth of the normal amount of required platinum. The cells generate electricity by using hydrogen and oxygen in a catalytic reaction when passed over a sheet or film of platinum. The research team made their cell with tiny particles of the metal placed in such a way to make the cell more efficient. Tightly packed together, the position of the platinum granules seemed to be more important than their size. The group was able to create a catalyst that produced eight Ampere per milligram of platinum instead of one Ampere per milligram found in standard cells on the market today.
Due to its rarity, platinum is more expensive than gold and is primarily found in South Africa and some areas of Russia. The 2012 yield for platinum was 179 metric tons as compared to gold which came in at 2,700 tons. At the beginning of the decade, platinum came at a cost of $1,600 per Troy Ounce where gold had a pricetag of only $1,300. Being able to conserve the metal will not only go a long way towards lowering the overall cost of fuel cells, but make hydrogen vehicles a more popular alternative to fossil fuels.
Images via the University of Copenhagen and Wikicommons user Wajahat87.