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Platinum is much too expensive and limited

Metal-air batteries and fuel cells for electric vehicles could get a performance boost from a new development by Korean researchers. 

Researchers from Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) in South Korea -- led by Prof. Jaephil Cho, dean of the Interdisciplinary School of Green Energy of UNIST -- have developed a bio-inspired composite electrocatalyst that could replace platinum

Right now, platinum and its alloy are key catalysts for activation of the oxygen reduction reaction that increases performance of fuel cells and metal-air batteries, but both are not easily used due to their high cost and limited availability. 

That's why Cho and his team came up with a less-expensive and easily-produced catalyst: a bio-inspired FePc-Py-CNTs catalyst.


This development introduces a a new class of ORR catalysts using pyridine-functionalized carbon nanotubes (CNTs). These CNTs, which provide an easy route for quick electron transfer from the current collector to the ORR active sites, hold FePc molecules securely and provide the axial ligand for the iron center.

“I believe the FePc-Py-CNTs catalysts is a technologically promising candidate for practical applications in metal-air batteries and alkaline fuel cells,” said Cho. “The origin of the enhanced performance for this bio-inspired catalysts in aromatic macrocycle, provides important insight into rational design of metal macrocycles catalysts for other applications such as solar harvesting and catalysts for other redox reactions.”

It looks like Cho may be right. The FePc-Py-CNTs catalyst is capable of a longer cycle life than unpyrilysed metal macrocycles catalysts by about 1,000+ cycles in tests.

The team also proved that the new catalyst offered higher electrocatalytic activity for oxygen reduction than platinum/C catalysts.

This could be a great find for automakers that are set on making strides in fuel cell technology for their vehicles. For instance, General Motors (GM) and Honda announced just this week that they'd team up to commercialize fuel cell technology by 2020. 

Source: Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology





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