1.5V Powered Water Splitter Could Revolutionize Fuel Cell Development
Staff posted on August 26, 2014 |
A new, cheap, low voltage fuel cell could finally reduce the cost of emission free vehicles.

fuel cell, battery, car, AAA, A new fuel cell, powered by a 1.5V AAA battery, could bring low-cost, low emission fuel cells to market.

While fuel cell cars are set to hit showrooms within a few short months, the power plants that drive these vehicles have proved difficult to produce.  Since their development in the 1960s fuel cells have been relegated to experimental status due to their high costs, low energy efficiency and the scarcity of infrastructure for delivering their fuel source. However, much of that may be changing due to a newly discover method for splitting water into its elemental components of hydrogen and oxygen.

Using a nickel-metal/nickel-oxide catalyst, researchers have replaced the expensive platinum material that’s been standard in fuel cells for decades. In addition, the Stanford team also reduced the amount of voltage required to separate hydrogen from its oxygen captor at room temperature.

According to Hongjie Dai, a Stanford Chemisty professor, "This is the first time anyone has used non-precious metal catalysts to split water at a voltage that low. It's quite remarkable, because normally you need expensive metals, like platinum or iridium, to achieve that voltage."

Currently, Stanford researchers are working to perfect their cheap catalyst and are targeting the current prototype’s lifecycle. As it’s built today the Stanford catalyst will only last a few days before it degrades to a point where it’s no longer functional. If the device could be made to last for months or years it might prove to be a viable solution for lowering the cost of automotive and industrial fuel cells.

Given a cheap, scalable option for fuel cells, modern car makers, infrastructure planners and building managers might finally see a viable solution for slashing greenhouse gas emissions. As researchers continue to develop affordable ways to meet our energy needs, fuel cells could lead the way to a greener future sooner than ever thought possible.

Source: Stanford University

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