TOPIC 'Fuel Cells' on Jan 20, 2009 (CST)
Fuel Cells Without Platinum Offer More Optimism
One of the issues with wide acceptance of fuel cells to operate automobiles has to do with the platinum metal that is integral to the design of the fuel cell. Finding a replacement for this expensive platinum element can reduce the cost of manufacture significantly.
Chinese engineers are studying a replacement for the platinum component. Part of the reason platinum was chosen as the metal of choice in fuel cells is because of its ability to remain stable in corrosive situations. A team of Chinese researchers at Wuhan University, led by Lin Zhuang, in Hubei province, has come up with an alternative method.
Previously, a platinum mechanism manipulated the component hydrogen into electrons and protons at one electrode. The protons then need to pass through a transfer membrane which would encourage the oxygen to create water. The electrons would be drained off as an electric current. Zhuangís team has manufactured a membrane that is not acidic, but alkali. Therefore, there is no need for the anti-corrosive platinum and a cheaper catalyst can be used, such as nickel.
The team has found that a newly identified polymer can make a great membrane for fuel cells. In fact, the polymer can even be combined with the instrument of change itself, which has the potential to increase efficiency of the fuel cell. The issue associated with polymers in the past and the reason they havenít worked is due to the fact that most are not stable at higher temperatures, which fuel cells require.
This new discovery holds promise. At present, the output is still not as high as if the platinum metal was used, but researchers are working on it. Other trials to change the acidic state of the fuel cell have resulted in carbonate deposits that clog the functioning of the cell. It hasnít really been tried with an alkaline membrane before, though, and the hope is that it will prove to work much better.
on behalf of the
BascoTec Internet Limited
Technologie Park 13