New low-cost hydrogen fuel cell also most durable to date

6 July 2022

Researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology have developed a new hydrogen fuel cell, which is not only more durable than current alternatives, but is also more cost-effective, offering promising applications to green energy.

Their findings were recently published in Nature Catalysis.

Hydrogen fuel cells use the chemical energy of hydrogen to generate electricity. This process results in zero emissions of CO2, particulate matter, and other air pollutants. However, despite their environmental benefits, the high cost and low durability of current hydrogen fuel cells have hindered their wide application. This is in part due to their reliance on electrocatalysts made of platinum, an expensive and rare metal.

Now, a research team led by Dr Minhua Shao from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology have created a new formula that consists of 80% less platinum than conventional hydrogen cells, while also setting a record for cell durability.

The new hybrid catalysts developed by the team have three different active sites, giving them an advantage over current catalysts, which have just one active site. The researcher's tests showed that the new catalyst was able to maintain its platinum catalytic activity at 97% after 100,000 cycles of accelerated stress tests, compared to current catalysts which can drop over 50% in performance after just 30,000 cycles.

“Hydrogen fuel cells are essential for achieving a carbon neutral world. We are delighted that our findings bring us one step closer to this goal. We will now work towards further refining the catalyst to make it compatible with fuel cell vehicles and other electrochemical devices,” said Shao.