A team of researchers has developed a new technology that could make fuel cells cheaper and more durable, a breakthrough that could speed up the commercialisation of fuel cell vehicles.
Hydrogen-powered fuel cells are a green alternative to internal combustion engines because they produce power through electrochemical reactions, leaving no pollution behind.
Researchers from the University Of Delaware in Newark, U.S. produced tungsten carbide nanoparticles in a novel way, much smaller and more scalable.
"The material is typically made at very high temperatures, about 1,500 Celsius, and at these temperatures, it grows big and has little surface area for chemistry to take place on," said researcher Dionisios Vlachos.
"Our approach is one of the first to make nanoscale material of high surface area that can be commercially relevant for catalysis," Vlachos added.
They made tungsten carbide nanoparticles using a series of steps including hydrothermal treatment, separation, reduction, carburization and more.
"We can isolate the individual tungsten carbide nanoparticles during the process and make a very uniform distribution of particle size," said a research associate Weiqing Zheng at the Catalysis Center for Energy Innovation.
They incorporated the tungsten carbide nanoparticles into the membrane of a fuel cell.
When tungsten carbide is incorporated into the fuel cell membrane, it humidifies the membrane at a level that optimizes performance.
The team also found that tungsten carbide captures damaging free radicals before they can degrade the fuel cell membrane.
As a result, membranes with tungsten carbide nanoparticles last longer than traditional ones.
According to researcher, the low-cost catalyst can be incorporated within the membrane to improve performance and power density.
"As a result, the physical size of the fuel cell stack can be reduced for the same power, making it lighter and cheaper. Furthermore, our catalyst is able to deliver higher performance without sacrificing durability, which is a big improvement over similar efforts by other groups," they added.
The research appears in journal of Nature Communications.
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