Chinese scientists develop new catalyst for hydrogen fuel cells

Chinese scientists announced that they have successfully addressed a key problem impeding the promotion of hydrogen vehicles by developing a new catalyst system for fuel cells.

Chinese scientists develop new catalyst for hydrogen fuel cells

A research team led by Lu Junling, Wei Shiqiang and Yang Jinlong at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), has developed a new catalyst for fuel cells, which could prolong battery life and greatly extend the range of proper temperature for cells to work.

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“These findings might greatly accelerate the advent of the era of hydrogen-powered vehicles,” Lu said.

According to Lu, a major problem with improving the catalyst system of the fuel cell is catalyst poisoning by impure gases such as carbon monoxide (CO). Under the current production methods, 0.5 to 2 percent of hydrogen is CO, which often poisons the platinum electrode and thus cuts the life of fuel cells.

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Currently, a preferred solution is on-board hydrogen purification, which involves preferential oxidation of CO in hydrogen (PROX). However, this approach is flawed since the catalyst can only work within a narrow temperature range above room temperature.

Atomically dispersed on silica-supported platinum nano-particles, the new catalyst of iron hydroxide enables complete and 100 percent selective CO removal through the PROX reaction over a broad temperature range of minus 75 degrees Celsius to 180 degrees Celsius.

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Lu said the final aim of the team is to develop an affordable and efficient catalyst that offers full-time protection to fuel cells and be used for production of pure hydrogen in factories.

The study results were published in the renowned scientific journal Nature on Thursday.

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