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.)