Advertisement

Researchers claim fuel cell breakthrough

Researchers claim fuel cell breakthrough
A Chevy Volt charger is displayed at the Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place in Chicago on February 9, 2011. UPI/Brian Kersey | License Photo

CLEVELAND, March 22 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they've made a breakthrough in the development of low-cost hydrogen fuel cells that one day could power electric cars.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland say catalysts made of carbon nanotubes dipped in a polymer solution can outperform traditional platinum catalysts in fuel cells at a fraction of the cost.

Advertisement

The scientists say the new technology can remove one of the biggest roadblocks to widespread cell use: the cost of the catalysts.

Platinum, which represents at least a quarter of the cost of fuel cells, currently sells for about $30,000 per pound, while the activated carbon nanotubes cost about $45 per pound, a Case release said Tuesday.

RELATED Israel's first electric car battery stop

"This is a breakthrough," Liming Dai, a professor of chemical engineering and the research team leader, said.

Soaking carbon nanotubes in a water solution of the polymer for a couple of hours coats the nanotube surface and pulls an electron partially from the carbon, creating a net positive charge, researchers said.

When placed on the cathode of an alkaline fuel cell, the charged material acts as a catalyst for the oxygen-reduction reaction that produces electricity by electrochemically combining hydrogen and oxygen.

Advertisement
RELATED Denmark gets OK for electric car program

In testing, the researchers' carbon catalyst fuel cell produced as much power as an identical cell using a platinum catalyst.

Dai said he's confident his lab can increase the energy output of the new process.

"We have not optimized the system yet," he said.

RELATED Chevrolet Volt named MotorWeek's best car

One widely researched use for such cells would be to produce electricity to power an electric car, using hydrogen and oxygen from the air. The only emission from such a vehicle, researchers say, would be water.

RELATED Wash. considers extra fee on electric cars

RELATED World record e-car burns amid controversy

Latest Headlines

Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us

Advertisement