December 17, 2008

Nickel nixes platinum in plastic fuel cell

Put together the right type of plastic and the right form of nickel and you can make fuel cells without platinum or other rare metals.

The prototype polymer electrolyte fuel cell uses an alkaline rather than an acid polymer, which opens the way for inexpensive metal electrodes that would corrode in acidic environments. The fuel cell also has an anode made of nickel sprinkled with chromium, which allows hydrogen to attach to the electrode but not oxygen. The fuel cell uses a silver cathode.

The device has a maximum power density of 50 milliwatts per square centimeter. This is lower than the 250 to 600 range for typical polymer electrolyte fuel cells but higher than many other prototypes and a strong proof of principal for alkaline polymer electrolyte fuel cells.

Platinum-free polymer fuel cells promise to lower fuel cell costs, particularly for vehicle fuel cells. Alkaline fuel cells could also work with alternative fuels that are easier to store than hydrogen.

Research paper:
Alkaline Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cells Completely Free from Noble Metal Catalysts
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online December 15, 2008

Researchers' homepage:
Fuel Cell & Electrocatalysis Lab, Wuhan University

Related stories and briefs:
Plastic-Goretex combo drives fuel cell -- related research

Back to ERN December 29, 2008/January 5, 2009



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