New technology improves fuel cells

April 21, 2011 at 8:21 PM
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LOS ALAMOS, N.M., April 21 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they've developed an inexpensive substitute for expensive platinum that's been a stumbling block to widespread use of hydrogen fuel cells.

Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists say eliminating the need for platinum -- currently costing almost $1,800 an ounce -- in fuel cells that convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity could bring the price down for the environmentally friendly devices that might replace current power sources in everything from personal data devices to automobiles, a Department of Energy release said Thursday.

The Los Alamos researchers have developed non-precious-metal catalysts using carbon and inexpensive iron and cobalt instead of platinum that have yielded high power output, good efficiency and longevity, the release said.

"The encouraging point is that we have found a catalyst with a good durability and life cycle relative to platinum-based catalysts," Los Alamos researcher Piotr Zelenay said. "For all intents and purposes, this is a zero-cost catalyst in comparison to platinum, so it directly addresses one of the main barriers to hydrogen fuel cells."

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