Scientists have discovered new iron catalysts combining iron with nitrogen and carbon, making hydrogen fuel cells affordable.
FREMONT, CA: Researchers have been searching for a catalyst that radically alleviates the cost of fabricating hydrogen fuel cells for many years. This advancement can lead to a green power revolution in everything from laptops to locomotive vehicles on a fuel whose only byproduct is water. This goal has been almost achieved by scientists worldwide. The commercialisation of eco-friendly fuel has been delayed for many years by platinum’s high cost. But recent studies indicate that low-cost catalysts may be a feasible substitute.
Research has been conducted to combine iron with nitrogen and carbon to produce an efficient, durable, and inexpensive catalyst. This is likely to become a significant breakthrough that will eventually help unleash the tremendous potential of hydrogen fuel cells. Researchers remark that this huge development will eventually fully realise the extensive potential of hydrogen fuel cells.
Fuel cells operate like batteries and do not run out of power or need recharging. They generate electricity and heat as long as fuel like hydrogen is supplied. Fuel cells have long challenged scientists, environmentalists, and others as they have lower or zero emissions than combustion engines. They are advantageous for many applications, providing power for vehicles, power plants, buildings, and other systems.
However, fuel cells are not extensively commercialised due to their expensive catalyst requirements, which will accelerate important fuel cell reactions. The best catalysts are a group of six metals, also known as platinum-group metals. These metals are efficient, durable, and expensive because they are rarely available. This made scientists turn toward cheap alternatives.
One such alternative is an iron-based catalyst, which is abundant and inexpensive, making it more appealing. But it does not perform as better as platinum, particularly because it lacks the durability to withstand the highly corrosive and oxidative environments inside fuel cells. A research team combined four nitrogen atoms with iron to overcome this barrier. They further embedded the material in a few graphene layers with accurate atomic control of local geometric and chemical structures, resulting in a highly improved catalyst. This is believed to be the most efficient iron-based catalyst ever produced. This research also achieved a durability rating that approaches platinum group catalysts.
All these indicate the iron-based catalyst's potential to convert fuel cells, especially hydrogen fuel cells, into more affordable commercial benefits. Therefore, researchers are initiating further studies to improve the catalyst.
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