How to build fuel cells for hydrogen cars, which produce as much electricity as current models, but require less of the rare and valuable metal platinum was shown by researchers.
Matthias Arenz, an associate professor at the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen, in collaboration with researchers from the Technical University Munchen and the Max Planck Institute for Iron Research in Dusseldorf he has built and tested a number of catalysts, the devices at the heart of a fuel cell.
Arenz is confident that his discovery can show the way for economically viable fuel cell production.
He said that in the lab they have shown that they can generate the same amount of electricity with just a fifth of the platinum.
Arenz explained that they don't expect to do quite that well in an everyday situation, but a marked reduction in platinum need is certainly realistic and that will be a huge financial advantage.
The Arenz group developed a fuel cell catalyst that got a whopping eight Ampere per milligram of platinum. Their initial instinct was that they got a bigger power yield, because they had used smaller granules of platinum. But careful measurement revealed something much more surprising.
The key factor leading to platinum savings might never have been discovered by the group. They had produced a number of catalysts with varying sizes of platinum particles, however, by chance the particles were very tightly packed on a few of the sample catalysts and as it turned out, the packing of the particles was much more significant than the size. An effect, that the researchers have dubbed the 'Particle Proximity Effect.'
The discovery has been published in Nature Materials.