By Cameron Chai
Hydrogen fuel cells present in eco-friendly vehicles can be potentially used as an alternative fuel source. It is difficult to practically construct on a large scale, as it has to be cost-effective and more efficient.
Researchers from the University of Central Florida (USF) may possibly have identified a solution for this.
Catalysts that are made using platinum are utilized for most of the hydrogen fuel cells. Most of the elements cannot tolerate the highly acidic solvents of the fuel cells present in the reaction, wherein the chemical energy of hydrogen is converted into electrical power. Gold, iridium, palladium and platinum are the only four elements that are corrosion-resistant. Iridium and platinum cannot be used on a large scale, as it is rare and costly.
Sergey Stolbov, UCF’s Professor, and Marisol Alcántara Ortigoza, a postdoctoral research associate, is focused to suitably use palladium and gold for the reaction. A sandwich-like structure was developed by them with economical and easily available element layers along with palladium, gold and other elements in order to render it more efficient.
Either gold or platinum form the sandwich’s top layer. The next layer helps improve the rate of energy conversion, but also enables protection of the catalyst from the acidic surroundings. These two layers exist on the lowermost slice of the sandwich. Additionally, tungsten stabilizes the catalyst.
Energy is converted at higher rate, due to the formation of these structures. The cost is also reduced, as rare and expensive metals are not utilized.
Stolbov requires conducting experiments to assess the predictions. Already, he is working with a team of the U.S. Department of Energy in order to determine duplication of the results and possibility for large-scale application.
When these hydrogen fuel cells become practically available, then the ozone layer destruction can be avoided.