This New Fuel Cell Design with Less Platinum Would Improve Power Performance of Vehicles and Save Money


Chao Wang assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at John Hopkins and his team chemical engineers have drawn inspiration from the ancient Egyptian tradition of gilding. The reason behind this research was to make modern-day fuel cells less expensive and more powerful.

Egyptians artists at the time of King Tutankhamun were using a thin layer of a gleaming precious metal such as gold to cover cheaper metals to create extravagant masks and jewelry.  Now, with this new research, the Johns Hopkins-led researchers have used a thin layer of platinum for coating which is just one nanometer thick — about 1/100,000th the diameter of a human hair to cobalt cores. These materials could generate electric current for powering cars and other machines and will produce a cleaner and more efficient fuel cell.

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Platinum is very rare and expensive metal which has a key role in many industrial applications and the new fuel cell design would require far less platinum that will save money.

According to the researchers, this variation could restrain the carbon dioxide’s emission and other pollutants from gasoline or diesel-powered vehicles by offering electric cars at affordable price. Chao Wang says this innovation will improve the energy efficiency and power performance of clean hydrogen-powered clean electric vehicles.

He states that platinum is a critical material used in modern industry. It is used to control emission in combustion vehicles and also in fuel cells as it generates necessary reactions in activities ranging from petroleum processing and petrochemical. But as the cost of the platinum is high and its availability is limited, using it in clean energy technologies largely impractical.

“We’ve been able to significantly stretch the benefits of platinum by coating it over cobalt, and we even managed to enhance the activity of platinum at the same time,” said lead author and Johns Hopkins.

Chao Wang suggested that they have noticed the limits of our non-renewable sources of energy and materials, and this new technique is bringing them in a very welcome new direction.