According to The Asahi Shimbun today, fuel cells are expected to become less expensive thanks to a new type of electrocatalyst for cathodes that does not require costly platinum, according to a team of scientists.
The breakthrough comes after the development of an anode catalyst that does not require platinum in 2014. If both cathodes and anodes dispense with platinum, the cost of fuel cells will come down substantially.
"We hope to strengthen the durability (of the electrodes), make other improvements and have it be of practical use," said Seiji Ogo, a professor of bioinorganic chemistry at Kyushu University and a key scientist behind both developments.
The team's finding was published in the online version of the German scientific journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition on Oct. 28.
Fuel cells, which are gaining attention as a way to power vehicles without emitting carbon dioxide, generate electricity by having hydrogen and oxygen react with each other through electrodes. But they are expensive, as platinum is generally used in the catalysts.
The extravagant cost of platinum, which can be 100,000 to 1 million times the price of iron, along with the limited amount of deposits on the planet, has had researchers on the lookout for a substitute.
Ogo developed an artificial enzyme that can be used as a catalyst for anodes based on the chemical structure of a natural enzyme containing iron discovered on Mount Aso, a volcano in Kumamoto Prefecture.
He said the natural enzyme has an electricity generation capability 80 percent more efficient than platinum.
Another issue with using platinum in fuel cell electrocatalysts was that it tended to produce hydrogen peroxide, a substance that corrodes batteries, on the cathode side. The issue had hindered the development of substitutes for cathode catalysts, but the new catalyst can function without producing any hydrogen peroxide.
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