Researchers of the University of Central Florida (UCF) announced that they have reached a solution that will solve the problem of the less efficiency and the high cost of the hydrogen fuel cell. The concept is making the structure of the device on the shape of a sandwich in order to use more materials as a catalyst in the cells.
The majority of hydrogen fuel cells use catalysts made of a rare and expensive metal – platinum. There are few alternatives because most elements can’t endure the fuel cell’s highly acidic solvents present in the reaction that converts hydrogen’s chemical energy into electrical power. Only four elements can resist the corrosive process – platinum, iridium, gold and palladium. The first two are rare and expensive, which makes them impractical for large-scale use. The other two don’t do well with the chemical reaction.
UCF Professor Sergey Stolbov and postdoctoral research associate Marisol Alcántara Ortigoza focused on making gold and palladium better suited for the reaction.
They created a sandwich-like structure that layers cheaper and more abundant elements with gold and palladium and other elements to make it more effective.
The outer monoatomic layer (the top of the sandwich) is either palladium or gold. Below it is a layer that works to enhance the energy conversion rate but also acts to protect the catalyst from the acidic environment. These two layers reside on the bottom slice of the sandwich — an inexpensive substrate (tungsten), which also plays a role in the stability of the catalyst.