The search for a catalyst that reduces the cost to fabricate hydrogen fuel cells is going on for decades. This could lead to a green power revolution wherein laptops to locomotives would be running on a fuel with water the only by product.
In a quest for this, a new research undertaken by researchers at the University of Buffalo is closer to the goal.
The study published in Nature Energy describes how iron can be combined with carbon and nitrogen to obtain a catalyst that is durable, inexpensive, and efficient – the three key criteria U.S. Department of energy has specified for fuel cell research.
In fact, the catalyst has been in the making for years. The fabrication of new catalyst is a significant finding that will eventually help release the tremendous potential of hydrogen fuel cells.
Importantly, fuel cells function like batteries, with the difference they do not run out of power, or require recharging, according to Department of Energy. They generate heat and electricity as long as fuel such as hydrogen is supplied.
Meanwhile, fuel cells have long fascinated environmentalists, scientists, and others because they have lower or nil emissions. The applications of fuel cells expand from providing power for vehicles, buildings, power plants, and other systems.
But fuel cells are commercialized in a limited manner. This is because fuel cells require expensive catalyst to speed up important fuel cell reaction.
So far, the platinum-group metals – a family of six precious metals are the best catalysts. While these metals are incredibly inexpensive they are extremely rare. This has compelled scientists to seek less expensive alternatives.
Iron-based catalysts is one such alternative. The abundance and attractive price of iron makes it appealing.