Scientists develop new material for longer-lasting fuel cells

Scientists develop new material for longer-lasting fuel cells

New research released today by scientists at Queen Mary University of London suggests that graphene could be used to make more durable hydrogen fuel cells for cars.

Platinum is the most widely used catalyst for fuel cells, but its high cost is a big problem for commercialisation. To address the issue, commercial catalysts are typically made by decorating tiny nanoparticles of platinum onto a cheaper carbon support, however the poor durability of the material greatly reduces the lifetime of current fuel cells.

But in a new development, the university researchers have confirmed the durability of the graphene-based catalyst using a type of test based on those recommended by the US Department of Energy (DoE), known as accelerated stress tests.

Using these tests, the scientists showed that loss in activity over the same testing period was around 30% lower in the newly developed graphene-based catalyst, compared with commercial catalysts.

Gyen Ming Angel, PhD student and first author of the study, from University College London (UCL), said: “The DoE sets tests and targets for fuel cell durability, with one accelerated stress test to simulate normal operating conditions and one to simulate the high voltages experienced when starting up and shutting down the fuel cell.”

“Most research studies in the graphene space only evaluate using one of the recommended tests. However, since we have high-quality graphene in our material, we have managed to achieve high durability in both tests and under long testing periods, which is important for the future commercialisation of these materials. We look forward to incorporating our new catalyst into commercial technology and realising the advantages of longer-life fuel cells.”

Professor Dan Brett, Professor of Electrochemical Engineering at UCL, said: “Satisfying global energy demands without damaging the environment is one of the great modern challenges. Hydrogen fuel cells can provide cleaner energy and are already used in some cars as an alternative to petrol or diesel.”

“However, a big barrier to their widespread commercialisation is the ability for catalysts to withstand extensive cycling required for their use in energy applications. We’ve shown that by using graphene instead of the typical amorphous carbon as a support material we can create ultra-durable catalysts.”


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