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New generation of hydrogen vehicles may use less platinum

Hybrid engine. Stock image.

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have come up with a new catalyst that requires small amounts of platinum and can be used to produce cheaper and more sustainable hydrogen-powered vehicles.

“We have developed a catalyst which, in the laboratory, only needs a fraction of the amount of platinum that current hydrogen fuel cells for cars do [about 50 grams],” Matthias Arenz, a professor at UCPH’s Department of Chemistry, said in a media statement.

“We are approaching the same amount of platinum as needed for a conventional vehicle. At the same time, the new catalyst is much more stable than the catalysts deployed in today’s hydrogen-powered vehicles.”

The new catalyst is carbon-free, which makes it more stable than most products in the market

According to Arenz, the new catalyst improves fuel cells significantly by making it possible to produce more horsepower per gram of platinum. This, in turn, makes the production of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles more sustainable.

The substance is also carbon-free, which distinguishes it from most existing products that are based on platinum-nano-particles coated over carbon, a configuration that makes them unstable.

Instead of resorting to these nano-particles, the Denmark-based researchers have built a network of nanowires characterized by an abundance of surface area and high durability.

The next step in this research is to scale up these results so that the technology can be implemented in hydrogen vehicles.

“We are in talks with the automotive industry about how this breakthrough can be rolled out in practice. So things look quite promising,” Arenz said.