Hydrogen fuel cells present in eco-friendly vehicles can be potentially used as an alternative fuel source. However, it is difficult to construct these fuel cells on a large scale, as they have to be cost-effective and more efficient. Researchers from the University of Central Florida (USF) have identified a solution to overcome these issues.
Catalysts that are made using platinum are utilized in most hydrogen fuel cells. Most of the elements cannot tolerate the highly acidic solvents of the fuel cells present in the reaction, wherein the chemical energy of hydrogen is converted into electrical power. Gold, iridium, palladium and platinum are the only four elements that have resistance to corrosion. Iridium and platinum cannot be used on a large scale, as they are rare and costly.
Sergey Stolbov, UCF’s Professor, and Marisol Alcántara Ortigoza, a postdoctoral research associate, studied the suitability of palladium and gold for the reaction. A structure resembling like a sandwich was developed by the researchers. It was then layered using low-cost elements along with palladium, gold and other elements to make it more efficient.
Either gold or platinum form the sandwich’s top layer. The bottom layer works in improving the rate of energy conversion and also shields the catalyst from the acidic surroundings. These two layers exist on the sandwich’s bottom slice. Additionally, tungsten helps in stabilizing the catalyst.
More amount of energy is converted due to the formation of these structures. The cost is also reduced, as rare and expensive metals are not utilized.
Stolbov added that additional experiments need to be done to assess the predictions. In fact, he is working with a team of the U.S. Department of Energy in order to find if the results can be replicated and whether they offer scope for large-scale application.
When these hydrogen fuel cells become practically available, depletion of the ozone layer can be avoided.