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Tokyo Researchers Developing Lower-Cost Catalysts for Fuel-Cell Electrodes

Nikkei. A research group at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology reports that it has developed a new fuel-cell electrode catalyst that uses molybdenum and nickel as its chief materials rather than platinum.

The team found that with the new catalyst used in the anode, the power generation of a fuel cell was about 10% that of a conventional cell using platinum catalysts. (In the test, the researchers continued to use a platinum catalyst on the cathode.)

However, the team notes that fuel cell manufacturing costs with the new catalyst could be reduced to 0.1% that of the current level. About 100 grams of platinum catalyst is required for a 100 kW PEM fuel cell used in a vehicle. Given the high cost of the metal, the electrolyte accounts for about 20% of the manufacturing costs of such a fuel cell.

The group, which is led by Professor Masatoshi Nagai, plans to refine the material and raise power generation efficiency to roughly 30% that of a platinum catalyst.

The new catalyst is made by mixing ammonium molybdate and nickel nitrate in an aqueous solution and then drying it. The dried product then undergoes firing to create an oxide, which is placed in a quartz reactor and heated to 550-800° C. Methane and hydrogen are blown in and the substance is carbonized. The resulting carbide is mixed with carbon in a solvent.

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory also recently reported on their work to develop a new class of lower-cost hydrogen fuel-cell catalysts. Their catalysts are made of low-cost nonprecious metals entrapped in a heteroatomic-polymer structure. The LANL catalyst also produced power at about 10% of the level of a conventional platinum catalyst. (Earlier post.)



Aren't fuel cells weak to begin with? Won't this just weaken them to the point where they're useless, or are they planning on making a fuel cell 10 times the size to compensate for this(note sarcasm). This just doesn't seem that promising to me.


if they can push it to 30% than the size will be 3 times the size of a normal cell but the cost will be 0.3 making it a lot cheaper


It would be better to use traditional ICE and H2 (more range)...
But I think we need better batteries or ultra capacitors, not H2 + fuel cell!


How much does 100 grammes of platinum cost? Anyone?


Just found out myself - about $30 per gramme.

However, the same source indicated that world supply of platinum is only 190,000 kg per year.

That means, at 100 g platinum required per car, you could only ever make enough fuel cells for 1.9 million cars per year (about 3% of global production). That's assuming the entire earth's annual supply of platinum goes to vehicles and nowhere else.

Surely the pro-hydrogen people have thought of a way around this?

Paul Dietz

Surely the pro-hydrogen people have thought of a way around this?

At least one fellow is proposing to mine platinum on the moon (!). The idea would be to look for sites where platinum-rich asteroids had created craters, and mine the PGEs from there. Needless to say, this requires a lot of optimism.


This is another reason why I like SOFCs. No platinum, they run on CO and H2 and you can use biofuels to get the hydrogen.


>Surely the pro-hydrogen people have thought of a way around this?

that is what this post i about. no need for plutonium!


Yes, but if they raise efficiency to reach their targer of 30% of a PEM fuel cell (as they claim is their ultimate goal in the article), that's a cheap, but only 0.50 x 0.30 = 15% efficient fuel cell.

15% efficiency is lower than a Hummer's gasoline engine and one third that of a good diesel engine.

Paul Dietz

I suspect the 30% 'efficiency' is actually refering to 'areal power density'. Doesn't make sense otherwise.

My question for all these new materials is: are they doing this in an acid fuel cell? If so, why doesn't the metal dissolve?


the problem is not finding new solutions...

the problem is findind a solution that works...

so far, none do, until a formula is found that conforms to sustainability...

find out how much how much each of you actually use on
http://www.rprogress.org ...

Cheryl Ho

DME developments in China today:
Since DME has an advantage of decomposition at lower temperature than methane and LPG, R&D for hydrogen source for fuel cell has been carried out.

If you would like to know more on the latest DME developments, join us at upcoming North Asia DME / Methanol conference in Beijing, 27-28 June 2007, St Regis Hotel. The conference covers key areas which include:

DME productivity can be much higher especially if
country energy policies makes an effort comparable to
that invested in increasing supply.
National Development Reform Commission NDRC
Ministry of Energy for Mongolia

Production of DME/ Methanol through biomass
gasification could potentially be commercialized
Shandong University completed Pilot plant in Jinan and
will be sharing their experience.

Advances in conversion technologies are readily
available and offer exciting potential of DME as a
chemical feedstock
By: Kogas, Lurgi and Haldor Topsoe

Available project finance supports the investments
that DME/ Methanol can play a large energy supply role
By: International Finance Corporation

For more information: www.iceorganiser.com

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