Aalto University researchers have succeeded in creating an inexpensive electrocatalyst made from carbon and iron for storing electric energy.
As the use of renewable energy keeps on increasing in leaps and bounds, scientists have been faced with a dire challenge on how to effectively and efficiently store electric energy.
Platinum has traditionally been used as the electrocatalyst in electrolysers that store electric energy as chemical compounds. However, platinum is a rare and expensive metal. Now Aalto University researchers have succeeded in developing a substitute to it that is cheap and effective.
“We developed an electrocatalyst that is made of iron and carbon. Now the same efficiency that was achieved with platinum can be obtained with a less expensive material. Nearly 40 per cent of the material costs of energy storage with an electrolyser come from the electrocatalyst”, says senior scientist Tanja Kallio.
The manufacturing process was developed in cooperation with a research group led by Professor Esko Kauppinen from Aalto University School of Science. The carbon nanotube the group developed conducts electricity extremely well and serves as the support, while the now added only single carbon layer covered iron functions as the catalyst. The manufacturing process has a single stage.
In the manufacturing phase, the iron was covered with graphene: “The method has been altered to make the electro catalyst very active. By active, we refer to the small amount of energy needed to store electric energy as hydrogen. This reduces the losses caused by chemical storage and the process is economically viable,” said Kallio.
The research was conducted at the Aalto University School of Chemical Technology in groups led by Professor Kari Laasonen and Senior scientist Tanja Kallio in cooperation with Professor Esko Kauppinen. The research was funded by the Aalto University AEF Program (Aalto Energy Efficiency Research Program).
Image courtesy: Aalto University