October 8, 2015

New method facilitates research on fuel cell catalysts / Faster design – better catalysts

(October 8, 2015)  While the cleaning of car exhausts is among the best known applications of catalytic processes, it is only the tip of the iceberg. Practically the entire chemical industry relies on catalytic reactions. Catalyst design plays a key role in improving these processes. An international team of scientists has now developed a concept that elegantly correlates geometric and adsorption properties. They validated their approach by designing a new platinum-based catalyst for fuel cell applications.

Hydrogen would be an ideal energy carrier: Surplus wind power could split water into its elements. The hydrogen could power fuel cell-driven electric cars with great efficiency. While the only exhaust would be water, the range could be as usual. But fuel cell vehicles are still a rare exception. The required platinum (Pt) is extremely expensive and the world’s annual output would not suffice for all cars.

A key component of the fuel cell is the platinum catalyst that is used to reduce oxygen. It is well known that not the entire surface but only a few particularly exposed areas of the platinum, the so-called active centers, are catalytically active.

A team of scientists from Technical University of Munich and Ruhr University Bochum (Germany), the Ecole normale superieure (ENS) de Lyon, Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Universite Claude Bernard Lyon 1 (France) and Leiden University (Netherlands) have set out to determine what constitutes an active center.

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