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Posted: December 18, 2009
Much cheaper fuel cell catalysts using iron instead of platinum
(Nanowerk News) Much cheaper fuel cell catalysts using iron instead of platinum—this major scientific breakthrough achieved by INRS researchers has earned a spot in Discover Magazine’s “Top 100 Stories of 2009,” in the January/February 2010 issue. The magazine has been published yesterday. Discover is an American popular science magazine with a readership of over six million.
Researchers Jean-Pol Dodelet, Michel Lefèvre, Eric Proietti, and Frederic Jaouen of INRS’s Energy, Materials, and Telecommunications Center in Varennes (Quebec) have taken a major step forward by developing a much improved iron-based catalyst intended for use in fuel cells for various applications including automotive propulsion.
Published in Science in April 2009, INRS’s discovery offers a promising alternative to the platinum catalysts currently used in fuel cell prototypes. Platinum, a precious metal mined almost exclusively in South Africa and Russia, is rare and extremely expensive, while iron, Earth’s second most abundant metal, presents no cost or supply issues.
Professor Jean-Pol Dodelet’s INRS team has shown that this new iron-based catalyst can rival its platinum-based counterpart for the electrochemical reduction of oxygen, one of the two essential reactions needed to generate electrical power. The new catalyst features a vastly improved volumetric current density that is within grasp of the U.S. Department of Energy’s elusive 2010 goal.
Researchers at INRS’s Energy, Materials, and Telecommunications Center are now focusing their efforts on improving the catalyst’s durability to make it commercially viable for use in tomorrow’s power demanding applications including transportation.