A British team of scientists have shown how a new type of graphene-based catalyst could help make hydrogen fuel cells more durable for cars.
The research team from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and University College London (UCL), managed to produce graphene via a special, scalable technique and used it to develop hydrogen fuel cell catalysts that are more durable and efficient than commercially available catalysts.
Platinum is the most widely used catalyst for fuel cells. Its high cost has however proven to be a major hindrance in commercializing hydrogen fuel cells.
To address this issue, manufacturers make catalysts by decorating tiny nanoparticles of platinum onto a cheaper carbon support. This nevertheless greatly reduces the lifetime of current fuel cells.
Previous research has suggested graphene could be an ideal support material for fuel cells due to its corrosion resistance, high surface area and high conductivity.
But the graphene used in a majority of experiments to-date contains many defects, and the predicted ‘improved resistance’ hasn’t really yielded any results of value yet.
The QMUL-UCL technique is however a game changer as it produces high-quality graphene decorated with platinum nanoparticles in a one-pot synthesis.
This process could be scaled up for mass production, opening up the use of graphene-based catalysts for widespread energy applications.
The scientists have further 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’ (AST), these tests deliberately stress the catalyst rapidly over many cycles in a short space of time.
They allow scientists to assess the stability of new materials without having to use them in an operational fuel cell over a period of months or years.
Using these tests, the British team 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.
Image and content: China Daily/QMUL via Eurekalert