It’s the world’s most durable and cost-effective hydrogen fuel cell – Technology – Hybrids and Electrics

A team of researchers from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has developed a new hydrogen fuel cell which is not only longest in the world to date, but also is the most profitable. Thanks to reduction of nearly 80% in the amount of platinum used as electrocatalyst the cost of the materials that make up the system is reduced. At the same time, the new formula established a record in terms of sustainability for this technology.

The hydrogen fuel cell is a technology that offers a clean option as it generates energy by converting hydrogen and oxygen into electricity. The result is a process without local emissions, since no carbon dioxide, particles or other pollutants likely to contaminate the environment are generated. But despite these environmental benefits and many years of development, hydrogen fuel cells are still they failed to convert in a widely traded option.

Hydrogen fuel cell technology must overcome two fundamental handicaps. The first is the rare existing hydrogen supply network. The system requires a network similar to that which exists today with service stations, which is complex and expensive to set up. In addition, to achieve the sustainability of the process, the hydrogen must be green, that is to say created by hydrolysis using renewable energies. The second handicap, also very important, is the cost of fuel cell systems.

In a fuel cell, hydrogen reacts with oxygen to generate electricity, purifying only water as the final waste. Electricity generation relies heavily on an electrocatalyst made largely of an expensive and rare material.platinum. This precious metal is essential in the oxygen reduction reaction because, as it is a slow process, platinum is needed to help speed it up.

Many scientific studies have attempted to develop alternatives, replacing platinum with more common and cheaper materials such as iron, nitrogen or carbon. However, but these materials have either been shown be inefficient in generating electricity or have low durability.

Economical and durable hydrogen fuel cell interior
The team of Professor SHAO Minhua, Director of the Hong Kong HKUST Institute of Energy and its Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, found a formula containing atomically dispersed platinum, individual iron atoms and platinum-iron nanoparticles, which accelerates the rate of reaction inside hydrogen fuel tanks.

Today, a research team led by Professor SHAO Minhua director of the Hong Kong HKUST Institute of Energy and its Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, has found a new formula that can not only reduce the proportion of platinum used in fuel cells by 80%but also sets a record in terms of durability.

Despite the low proportion of platinum, the new hybrid catalyst developed by this team managed to maintain the catalytic activity of platinum at a 97% after 100,000 test cycles accelerated stress. In comparison, today’s catalyst typically experiences a performance drop of more than 50% after 30,000 cycles. In another of the tests carried out, the new fuel cell did not show no reduction performance after 200 hours of operation.

One of the reasons for these exceptional results is the fact that the new catalyst has three different active sites for the reaction, instead of just one, as is the case with current catalysts. With a formula containing atomically dispersed platinum, individual iron atoms and nanoparticles of platinum and iron, the new mixture accelerates the reaction rate and achieves catalytic activity 3.7 times higher to that of platinum itself. Theoretically, the higher the catalytic activity, the greater the power delivered by the fuel cell.

Professor Shao explains that the hydrogen fuel cell is an essential energy conversion device to achieve carbon neutrality, so there is a need to expand its use in the fight against climate change. “Through the government’s Green Technology Fund, we will seek to further refine the catalyst and make it compatible with fuel cell vehicles and other electrochemical devices.”

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