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Polymer Electrolytes and Non Noble Metal Electrocatalysts for High Temperature PEM Fuel Cells

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Making ‘clean’ energy even more attractive

An EU-funded initiative has resulted in increased efficiency and decreased cost of fuel cell production. Project outcomes provide European industry with a significant advantage in the global market for such energy forms.

Energy

Fuel cells are a clean renewable form of energy currently used in everything from hospitals and factories to cars and buses. Polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells are essentially batteries that produce electricity often using stored hydrogen fuel and oxygen from the air. They are an efficient and 'clean' form of energy and demand for them in new technologies is growing rapidly. Conventional PEM fuel cells typically operate at relatively low temperatures and require platinum, a noble metal that is both expensive and sensitive to carbon monoxide poisoning. The ‘Polymer electrolytes and non noble metal electrocatalysts for high temperature PEM fuel cells’ (Apollon-B) project was designed to develop materials that allow high temperature operation of PEM fuel cells and minimise or eliminate the use of platinum. The researchers successfully developed nano-structured platinum-based alloys, or metals composed of platinum and another element. These materials thus reduced the amount of costly platinum required and were in fact up to five times as active as conventional platinum electrodes. In addition, they conducted extensive experimental and modelling research related to the activity and compatibility of non-noble metal materials that could eliminate the use of platinum entirely. In summary, the Apollon-B project investigators successfully addressed one of the main stumbling blocks of PEM fuel cells, namely their dependence on platinum and its inherent temperature restriction. As such, they advanced Europe's position relative to the production of high-temperature PEM fuel cells. Given that these fuel cells have a great potential for commercialisation in the fields of stationary and mobile energy applications, the EU-funded project should provide a lead for European industry in a highly lucrative energy market.

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