A new hydrogen fuel cell that was created by researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) is the most resilient one yet. Additionally, it is more economical and is anticipated to open the door for larger use of green energy in the effort to create a world free of carbon emissions.
With no emissions of carbon dioxide, particulate matter, or other air pollutants that may result in smog and other health issues, hydrogen fuel cell technology has enormous potential as a clean energy option. It produces electricity by converting hydrogen and oxygen into electricity while emitting no carbon dioxide or other air pollutants.
The hydrogen fuel cell, despite its advantages for the environment and years of development, has not yet been extensively used because it relies heavily on an electrocatalyst, which is primarily composed of the pricey and rare metal platinum.
Iron-nitrogen-carbon and other more accessible and less expensive materials like these have been tried as alternatives to platinum, but they have either been shown to be ineffective in power generation or have poor endurance.
The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at HKUST’s Prof. SHAO Minhua’s research team discovered a novel formula that not only reduced the amount of platinum used by 80 percent but also established a record for the level of cell endurance. As a result, things have changed.
In contrast to the present catalyst, which often experiences a loss in performance of over 50% after 30,000 cycles, the new hybrid catalyst developed by the researchers was able to retain the platinum catalytic activity at 97 percent after 100,000 cycles of an accelerated stress test. Another test revealed that after 200 hours of operation, the new fuel cell showed no performance degradation.
The exceptional performance is in part due to the new catalyst’s three distinct active sites for the reaction, as opposed to the conventional catalysts’ single active site. The new mixture enhances the reaction rate and reaches a catalytic activity 3.7 times higher than the platinum itself using a formula including atomically distributed platinum, iron single atoms, and platinum-iron nanoparticles. Theoretically, the power a catalyst produces increases with catalytic activity.
The hydrogen fuel cell is an energy conversion technology crucial for attaining a carbon-neutral planet, according to Prof. Shao, who is also the Director of the HKUST Energy Institute, and its use must be increased in the fight against climate change.
“We are happy to see that our research’s results have advanced this objective. We will work to further hone the catalyst and make it compatible with fuel cell cars and other electrochemical devices with the help of the government’s Green Tech Fund, said Prof. Shao.
The Shenzhen Science and Technology Innovation Committee, the National Key R&D Program of China, and the Research Grant Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region all provided financial assistance for the study. The results of the study were just released in the journal Nature Catalysis.
Concerning the Green Tech Fund
To support research and development (R&D) initiatives that will assist Hong Kong to reduce its carbon footprint and improve environmental protection, the government established the HK$ 200 million Green Tech Fund (GTF). These projects can now receive better and more targeted financial support from regional governmental research institutes, R&D centers, and commercial firms. GTF offers funding support for projects in the range of HK$ 2.5 million to HK$ 30 million.