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Non-noble catalysts for proton exchange membrane fuel cell anodes

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Cost-friendly fuel cells on the way

Vehicles of the future, from buses to submarines, will depend heavily on efficient fuel cells. New research initiatives have resulted in the development of required anode catalysts for the manufacture of better fuel cells.


Fuel cells convert chemical energy from certain fuels into electricity through a chemical reaction with an oxidizing agent such as oxygen. The process depends on an anode catalyst which breaks down the fuel into electrons and ions and is usually made of a fine platinum powder, representing a costly noble metal. The EU-funded project 'Non-noble catalysts for proton exchange membrane fuel cell anodes' (Fcanode) aimed at identifying competitive, low-cost proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC) anode catalysts. The project worked on developing novel catalyst nanoparticles for fuel cell applications through modelling exercises and laboratory testing. Fcanode isolated several interesting materials and potential catalysts that exhibited the desired levels of hydrogen oxidation and carbon monoxide tolerance to support the project's objectives. It outlined advanced platinum-based catalyst standards and paved the way for producing novel supported PEMFC anode catalysts. In addition, the project team developed system options with lower noble metal content and even with non-noble metals, bringing significant cost savings into the fold. After intensive testing and research, Fcanode identified two highly promising low-cost systems with zero noble metal content, as well as another important one with very high carbon monoxide tolerance. For now, systems with reduced noble metal content rather than no noble metal content have proved more viable competitors to existing catalyst technology. This has led to the patenting of five novel applications that are set to revolutionise fuel cell technology, offering an inestimable positive long-term impact on energy production and the environment.

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