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Platinum-Free Fuel Cell Cathode Technology Achieves Performance Level Comparable to Conventional FCs

ACAL replaces the cathode in a conventional PEM fuel cell (left) with a liquid, non-precious metal catalyst system (right). Click to enlarge.

ACAL Energy Ltd. has obtained peak power density figures from a development proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells using its platinum-free cathode technology (FlowCath, earlier post) that consistently exceed 570mW/cm2 since late December 2008.

This represents a new record power density level from a liquid platinum-free cathode system. Further improvements are expected in 2009, with an ultimate peak power density target of over 1W/cm2, according to the company.

FlowCath replaces the expensive precious metal catalyst found in conventional fuel cells with a proprietary low cost liquid catalyst. This not only reduces the cost of the fuel cell, but also provides significant durability and reliability benefits through system simplification and the elimination of the most common failure mechanisms found in standard fuel cells.

ACAL’s stages of development. Source: ACAL Energy. Click to enlarge.

ACAL’s core technology is the liquid catalyst chemistry. The company started with a polyoxometallate inorganic association complex that offers the same power density as platinum (unpressurized), with an additional 100% performance improvement possible. For its next-generation system, the company is developing a transition metal-ligand complex capable of delivering 2-3x the performance of platinum, according to ACAL.

The circulating catalyst solution was originally invented by Ford Motor in 1950s, but abandoned because the chemical system couldn’t deliver enough oxygen. ACAL leverages advances in detergent chemistry over the past 50 years.

ACAL is currently running a 50W prototype, and plans to introduce a 1 kW demonstration system in 2009.

In November 2008, the company raised £3.3 million (US$4.8 million) in venture financing. Led by CT Investment Partners LLP, all existing venture capital investors, Rising Stars Growth Fund (RSGF), NorthStar Equity Investors Ltd, Porton Capital Ltd and Synergis Technologies Ltd, invested in the round and were joined by new investments from Solvay SA and a leading Japanese corporation.



So, with their current version, they would need 20 square meters to produce 50Kw, right? I wonder how bulky that would be?


As I understand, platinum cost is the main factor in auto fuel cell $500,000 prices.

Can an expert out there explain if this is a breakthrough?


Actualy platinum is a very minor cost in most fuel cells. Even back in 1998 most fuel cells only used between 30-100 grams of platinum each. By the time they go into mass production they are targeting 8-10 grams each wich compares fine with the 5 grams per for catalytic converters.

No the main issue with platinum is they have limited amounts of it available and so if they wanted to go mass they would run into trouble getting enough. Thus they want to get rid of ALL platinum in the process no matter the cost of the platinum itself its a bottleneck all the same.

But its only such when you actauly go heavy mass production wich isnt likely thius decade anyway so they have plenty of time to work out the non plat tech.


Isn’t platinum used in every catalytic converter? There is plenty of it. The largest platinum mine in the US (Stillwater, MT) is presently running at ½ capacity as are the mines in SA and Russia. I don’t mind not using platinum since the Russians have a monopoly on it and I abhor monopolies and cabals but supply isn’t the problem.


If markets made sense and people had common sense this wouldnt be earth now would it?


30 millions car / year * 10 gramms = 300 tonnes = twice the world yearly capacity production. The amount of Pt in exhaust catalyst is more 1 gramm than 5 and automakers are working hard to reduce it by factor 5 as it has been presented on this site.

Getting rid of Pt is an important step for the mass introduction of fuel cells. But anyway I don't think fuel cell is the best way to move to H2 powered cars. An ICE running on H2 can be as efficient (ultra-high octane index, gazeaous form, high speed of flamme propagation) and almost as clean as a fuel cell plus it would have the huge advantage to be able to work on H2 or Gazoline if properly designed and that's a killing advantage.

So great work but not really usefuel for car industry since H2 economy won't happen any time soon


In the next decade they might make fuel cells practical for autos.
Then only the H2 distribution infrastructure would be missing.
Seems iffy to me.
I never knew that "The circulating catalyst solution was originally invented by Ford Motor in 1950s,".
Doesn't this mean Ford conspired to kill the FCV?
Like how nuch evidence do we need?

Andrey Levin


From Wiki:
“The XP-883 was an experimental plug-in hybrid car demonstrated by General Motors in 1969. The two-door hatchback had seating for two adults and two children The batteries could be charged using a standard 115 volt wall outlet and could power the vehicle in all-electric mode in city driving. In hybrid mode, it had a maximum speed of 60 miles per hour (97 km/h). While the XP-883 was built using off-the-shelf technology, General Motors did not provide an electric car to consumers .”

So you can safely say that GM killed PHEV in 1969.


wintermane2000: "More than half the cost of fuel-cell stacks comes from platinum, according to the Department of Energy."
"On Oct. 10, 2000, GM sold control of GM-Ovonics, and the NiMH batteries it controlled, to Texaco. On Oct. 16, 2000, Texaco announced it was merging into Chevron (Standard Oil of California), taking control of the NiMH Electric car batteries with it. Chevron renamed GM-Ovonics as Chevron-Ovonics BAttery SYStems ("COBASYS"). In 2001, Cobasys filed suit against Toyota and others, claiming violations of its patent rights.

To this day, Chevron's unit Cobasys retains control of the NiMH batteries; ...For example, NiMH has a useful life of more than 10 years and over 100,000 miles, ... value of $2,400 or a net cost of about 10 cents per mile.

The Lithium batteries in the Tesla ...or a net cost of more than 25 cents per mile. ..NiMH would be as little as 4 cents per mile."

So you can safely say that GM killed the EV.


Reply to HealthyBreeze:

20 square meters, Actually not so bulky.

An automotive stack would operate anywhere from 300-600 volts.

For simplicity assume 1 volt per cell, and 500 volts. 20 meters squared divided by 500 cells equals .04 meters squared per cell. If the cells were a perfect square each side would be .2m, or about 8 inches.

So it would be a stack of 500 8 inch by 8 inch plates. Each plate is quite thin, so not terribly big compared with an IC engine.


Kelly that was back when platinum was many times more spendy then now and fuel cells used alot more of it then now. The very simple "lie" alot of researchers use to keep funding going of simply using out of date data.


"No the main issue with platinum is they have limited amounts of it available and so if they wanted to go mass they would run into trouble getting enough." spells shortage and higher cost - as numerous comments and the DOE pointed out.

Please provide links for ".. back when platinum was many times more spendy" and "The very simple "lie" alot of researchers use.." which you have spotted.


If you want to find it google platinum use in fuel cells and 1998 I think that will eventualy give you the result I found a month or two ago when trying to find out how much platinum the honda fuel cell stack uses.. I sure as freak aint going tralling through that boring mess of pimple infested geekdom again.

By the way why is it so hard to find out how much platinum a freaking fuel cell stack uses anyway? They love to say they cut it but they never say to what.... Drives me nanners much like the battery makers saying they increased the energy density of blah by 30% but then NOT ever EVER saying to WHAT!!!!!

Just like gm saying the freaking fuel cell was half the size... But never did they say what last gens size actauly was.... Just v8 ISH... Mumble.

Least honda said its fuel cell stack was the size of a pc. They even gave its dimensions... course they didnt say how long it lasted or cost or how much platinum it used.....

As for the lie havnt you noticed yet that when talking about whatever it is they want to compare they always use old data and never update it even if its 10 years old and everything has completely changed?

Ive started to google the things and see if I can find wich year or heck DECADE it was said;/


"Costs. In 2002, typical cells had a catalyst content of US$1000 per kilowatt of electric power output. In 2008 UTC Power has 400kw Fuel cells for $1,000,000 per 400kW installed costs."


Ah as I said gotta be careful where you get your data.

In 2002 most fuel cells were designs made back before bush and were low power and HUGE and very low lifespan.. 500 hours and ran on liquid h2. Also you have to find out what the platinum cost then.. I think back then it had hit 1500-2100 an ounce but now I think it was said to be nearer 500.

Also notice how they say a 400 kw fuel cell cost 1 million INSTALLED cost? That doesnt actauly tell us anything about the cost per average stack that company made just the installed cost of that one stack. And it also doesnt tell us the cost to make the stack just the cost to get it and install it wich is of course far more specialy as they likely only made one of that size.

I tell you its like dealing with lawyers and politicians trying to tease real info out of thse things.

The only thing I have found that works is just sit back and wait for em to sell the blasted things for real.. They cant lie then... much... For fuel cells I think we are talking 2010 before mass production starts for some applications... Thats how I dealt with trying to keep track of lithium batteries.

Andrey Levin

Going deeper in history:

“Hybrid vehicles were produced as early as 1899 by Lohner-Porsche”

So it was Germans who killed 19-century Prius (aside from serial hybrid Tiger tank of WW2 vintage).

Electric cars, actually, appeared long before ICE cars. Also, Henry Ford initially thought that his vehicles would be powered by ethanol.

Plenty of material to enjoy conspiracy theories down here in history.


"Ah as I said gotta be careful where you get your data." is a good reason for multiple references:

Going deeper in history:

Andrey, none of the historical figures you listed took their customers cars and crushed them, launched public and private lawsuits to stop technical progress, and now live off our tax dollars.

"Plenty of material to enjoy conspiracy theories down here in history." indeed..


Thanks kelly. Its worth noting the amount of platinum is going down rather fast. So from what it says most of the current fuel cell stacks are between 50-80 grams of platinum for a 100 kw stack in 2008... Have to wonder what the next gen of cells will get as they should be popping up soon.

Oh and note kelly that the second link you posted basicaly states that no platinum isnt a major cost for fuel cells.... that a 330w stack only uses 22 bucks of platinum yet costs 3000 bucks.


wintermane2000 - I noted that key link ("that a 330w stack only uses 22 bucks of platinum yet costs 3000 bucks") too. I wondered if people actually read references and I got an answer to an important question. The FC cost must be mainly in the fabrication.

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