Home > Press > Hydrogen cars quickened by Copenhagen chemists
Climate friendly fuel cells for hydrogen cars have come one step closer. Researchers at the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen, have shown how to build fuel cells that produce as much electricity as current models, but require markedly less of the rare and valuable precious metal platinum. Their discovery was published in the highly reputable periodical Nature Materials.
Hydrogen cars quickened by Copenhagen chemists
Copenhagen, Denmark | Posted on July 22nd, 2013
Cheaper hydrogen cars with new fuel cell design
Fuel cells ought to replace internal combustion engines in our cars. They are better for the climate and for the environment. Partly because fuel cells use the fuel much more efficiently. Partly because they emit no smoke, no smog, no CO2.
Unfortunately the fuel cells have a technical limitation. They only work if they contain the metal platinum which is less common and more costly than gold. This has been a considerable obstacle to the development of the energy efficient power generators.
Reduced need for metal increases economic yield
Matthias Arenz is an associate professor at the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen. In collaboration with researchers from the Technical University München and the Max Planck Institute for Iron Research in Düsseldorf he has built and tested a number of catalysts, the devices at the heart of a fuel cell. Arenz is confident that his discovery can show the way for economically viable fuel cell production.
-In the lab we have shown, that we can generate the same amount of electricity with just a fifth of the platinum. We don't expect to do quite that well in an everyday situation, but a marked reduction in platinum need is certainly realistic. And that will be a huge financial advantage.
One of the most costly elements
The precious metal platinum is one of the rarest elements on earth. Most of it is to be found in South Africa, where 80 percent of world production is mined while Russia extracts another ten percent. This means that the metal is strategically important.
In 2012 world production was 179 metric tons. By comparison gold production was 2.700 tons. And while the cost of platinum in 2010 was 1.600 dollars per Troy Ounce gold sold at just 1.300 dollars for a Troy Ounce.
Sheets, particles or nanoparticles
Fuel cells produce electricity from hydrogen and oxygen in a so called catalytic reaction which is kept going by platinum. The greatest effect is achieved by flowing your gasses over a sheet or film of platinum but that requires large amounts of the costly element. Instead modern fuel cells are made with particles, little granules, of platinum. What the research in Arenz' group showed was, that these granules could be placed more efficiently.
Five times more electricity for every gram of metal
When tested in the laboratory, catalysts bought on the market today will produce around one Ampere for every milligram of metal. The Arenz group developed a fuel cell catalyst that got a whopping eight Ampere per milligram of platinum. Their initial instinct was that they got a bigger power yield, because they had used smaller granules of platinum. But careful measurement revealed something much more surprising.
Unexpected effect discovered by chance
The key factor leading to platinum savings might never have been discovered by the group. They had produced a number of catalysts with varying sizes of platinum particles. By chance the particles were very tightly packed on a few of the sample catalysts and as it turned out, the packing of the particles was much more significant than the size. An effect, that the researchers have dubbed the "Particle Proximity Effect".
Next step will be to develop a chemical method to produce tightly packed catalysts on an industrial scale. Arenz has a few ideas for that as well, so he and his group have started applying for grants.
For more information, please click here
Telephone: +45 3532 0002 [Ring op: +45 3532 0002]
Cell Phone: +45 30506582 [Ring op: +45 30506582]
Copyright © University of Copenhagen
If you have a comment, please Contact
Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.
News and information
East China University of Science and Technology Purchases Nanonex Advanced Nanoimprint Tool NX-B200 July 30th, 2014
Watching Schrödinger's cat die (or come to life): Steering quantum evolution & using probes to conduct continuous error correction in quantum computers July 30th, 2014
From Narrow to Broad July 30th, 2014
FLAG-ERA and TNT2014 join efforts: Graphene Networking at its higher level in Barcelona: Encourage the participation in a joint transnational call July 30th, 2014
University of Manchester selects Anasys AFM-IR for coatings and corrosion research July 30th, 2014
Nature inspires a greener way to make colorful plastics July 30th, 2014
Analytical solutions from Malvern Instruments support University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee researchers in understanding environmental effects of nanomaterials July 30th, 2014
FEI Unveils New Solutions for Faster Time-to-Analysis in Metals Research July 30th, 2014
From Narrow to Broad July 30th, 2014
Oregon chemists eye improved thin films with metal substitution: Solution-based inorganic process could drive more efficient electronics and solar devices July 21st, 2014
Steam from the sun: New spongelike structure converts solar energy into steam July 21st, 2014
3-D nanostructure could benefit nanoelectronics, gas storage: Rice U. researchers predict functional advantages of 3-D boron nitride July 15th, 2014
Stanford team achieves 'holy grail' of battery design: A stable lithium anode - Engineers use carbon nanospheres to protect lithium from the reactive and expansive problems that have restricted its use as an anode July 27th, 2014
Nano-supercapacitors for electric cars July 25th, 2014
Using Sand to Improve Battery Performance: Researchers develop low cost, environmentally friendly way to produce sand-based lithium ion batteries that outperform standard by three times July 8th, 2014
Up in Flames: Evidence Confirms Combustion Theory: Berkeley Lab and University of Hawaii research outlines the story of soot, with implications for cleaner-burning fuels July 1st, 2014
Media Advisory: Minister Rempel to Announce Support for Alberta's Nanotechnology Sector June 20th, 2014
Evolution of a Bimetallic Nanocatalyst June 6th, 2014
University of Surrey collaborates with India and Tata Steel to revolutionise renewable energy March 26th, 2014
Novel membrane reveals water molecules will bounce off a liquid surface: Study may lead to more efficient water-desalination systems, fundamental understanding of fluid flow March 16th, 2014