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Researchers develop optimized electrospray technique for ultra-low platinum loading in fuel cells with high performance

Foto electrospray
The electrospray (top) and the deposited nanostructure (bottom). Source: UNED. Click to enlarge.

A group of researchers from UNED (National Distance Education University) in Spain reports developing an optimized electrospray method for manufacturing the membrane electrode assembly (MEA) in PEM fuel cells with ultra-low platinum loadings that exceed US Department of Energy (DOE) targets.

Optimization of the control parameters result in electrosprayed layers with nanostructured fractal morphologies with dendrites formed by clusters (about 100 nm diameter) of a few single catalyst particles rendering a large exposure surface of the catalyst.

With ultra-low platinum loadings of 0.01 mg/cm2 in both electrodes, the platinum utilization was so high that PEM fuel cells delivered power reaching up to 10 kW per gram of platinum. The DOE target for the period 2017-20 is 8 kW per gram of platinum with a loading ten times higher. A fuel cell with the MEA developed by these researchers has been operating for more than 1,000 hours without interruption.

The electrospray technique, which has been patented, copes with any fuel cell size from laboratory to marketable dimensions and could be used for low-cost industrial production, the researchers said.

The method deposits thin nanostructured layers of electrocatalyst particles on the fuel cell electrodes, which are joined by simple contact on both sides of the polymeric membrane, making the MEA.

The methodology used for the deposition of the catalytic layer (electrospraying) is the key to increase the performance.

We were able to control the morphological properties (porosity and roughness) of the material generated by the catalyst particles when deposited, substantially increasing the active surface. As the performance depends on the surface of the catalyst particles exposed to the reactive gas, and it was made very large, we have reached a high performance.

—Jose Luis Castillo, professor in the Department of Mathematical Physics and Fluids

The cost of the platinum catalyst is about the 30% of the total price of a fuel cell; hence, the ability to build fuel cells at competitive prices is one of the challenges being pursued by the research community.

In addition to potential use by the automotive industry, lower-cost and better-performing fuel cells could also be used to address the problem of discontinuity in renewable electricity generation by using excess renewable electricity to generate hydrogen for later conversion via fuel cells.


  • S. Martin, P.L. Garcia-Ybarra, J.L. Castillo (2010) “High platinum utilization in ultra-low Pt loaded PEM fuel cell cathodes prepared by electrospraying”, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy 35 10446-10451 doi: 10.1016/j.ijhydene.2010.07.069



The projected cost for fuel cells using current technology at 500,000 vehicles a year is $49/kw.
Their target for 2017 was $30.
It sounds as though this should get us a lot of the way towards that.

At $3,000 for a 100kw stack that is likely to be cheaper than the CF tanks for the hydrogen.


It looks like the cost of the powertrain and fuel system is still high compared to batteries, and the "fuel" of batteries is much cheaper and almost universally available.


Funnily enough, in all the arguments against fuel cells I have read from folk who really, really do not fancy them I have come across umpteen reasons for saying they won't work ranging from the cost of they fuel cells, to the cost of the hydrogen and the supposed relative inefficiency well- to wheels, and on to the cost of the infrastructure.
Most of those rationales have proved to be less than well founded on examination and with the current improvements.

What I have rarely or never heard advanced as the main obstacle is on-board storage, save for fairly ill-informed 'concerns' about safety.

The cost of CF tanks and their relatively low potential for cost reduction together with the immature state of alternatives such as hydride storage, on board reformation and methanol fuel cells seems to me a much more substantial barrier than any of the objections usually raised.

If you are building a big, powerful SUV the cost of at least $4-6,000 for the CF tanks may be tolerable, but you aren't going to power small, cheap cars that way.

At the moment there seem to be significant obstacles to both BEV and fuel cells, and the RE concept seems the most viable.


'In addition to potential use by the automotive industry, lower-cost and better-performing fuel cells could also be used to address the problem of discontinuity in renewable electricity generation by using excess renewable electricity to generate hydrogen for later conversion via fuel cells.' I alwas wonder when reading this where man stupiditity ends?


Im interrested to buy a hydrogen fuelcell car with this improved fuelcell but not in 2015 as they promised but now, is it clear now. Till then postpone any new car buying expenditure toward toyota, gm, ford, honda, mercedes, etc, till they decide to commercialize and sell hydrogen fuelcell car with this new optimized platinum loading. The current state of the art for hydrogen is ready now, not in 2015. It's time to act and put one for sale near where i live.


Um davemart they dropped the price of making carbon fiber tanks by alot so no they dont cost that much when made in bulk. In fact its something more like 6-800 bucks for the tanks and they plan to get that down to 4-500.

In fact they have been mass producing various tanks for h2 storage for years now using new cheaper methods of making them... try googling dry tape carbon fiber or something along that line to find info on it... it was posted here a few years back.


Don't hold your breath, A D.

Fuel cell cars may eventually be marketed, but by that time I'm going to have one that charges from the wall.  I can't make my own hydrogen, but I can make my own electricity.  Hoping for 1 Q 2013.


@ wintermane:
I would be interested in seeing you links for the low cost of CF tanks.
Here are some of the links behind my comments:


Bah your gona make me work and stuff!!!! argh ok ok... google fu power engage!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I think my google fu came through....


Many thanks. I have had a look at the link you provided.
The research, whilst valuable, is perhaps still somewhat proprietary and even speculative.
To be even handed there are other possible advances in batteries, such as lithium air, which would advance that technology in an equally or more dramatic manner.
So it appears to me that there are still substantial obstacles to low cost on-board storage of hydrogen, with no sure route through.

Roger Pham

Thanks, Wintermane, for the link. Indeed, when H2 storage will cost only $5/kWh, then a 4-kg tank capable of 144 kWh will cost only $720.

If we are going to accept BEV's and PHEV's with battery costs at $400/kWh now, with projection to come down to $200/kWh by 2020, with calendar-life limitation, then why can't we accept H2-V with H2 storage costing ~$5/kWh at mass-produced quantity, but without calendar-life limitation. Heck, the 2009 H2 tank prototype only costs $10/kWh.


Cost hasn't been an issue in H2 storage for some time; the target figures are for weight (aiming for 7 wt% H2 or more) and bulk.  You could drive around with a huge balloon over your vehicle, but you wouldn't have any practicality or customer acceptance.  I doubt you'd have safety either; a hydrogen car wouldn't be much good if it couldn't use parking decks.

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