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Hong Kong creates world’s most durable hydrogen fuel cell

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What if it were possible to construct a cheaper and more efficient hydrogen fuel cell? Now, a Hong Kong-based research team has created a new hydrogen fuel cell that has not only established a new record for durability, but is also more cost-effective.

Hydrogen fuel cells create power from hydrogen and oxygen. Carbon dioxide, suspended particles, and other air pollutants that can lead to pollution and health issues are not produced during the generation of electricity. The only emission is water, hence it was once considered a cleaner source of energy. Hydrogen fuel cells have not yet been commercialized on a wide scale because the catalysts they rely on are predominantly constructed of pricey platinum.

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has proposed a solution that not only reduces the required platinum catalyst content by 80%, but also establishes a new world record for the durability of hydrogen fuel cell power generation.

After 100,000 voltage cycles of the accelerated stress test, the research revealed that the catalytic efficiency remained at 97%. In comparison, following 30,000 accelerated stress tests, the efficiency of standard catalysts typically declines by more than 50 percent. Another test conducted by the group demonstrated the excellent performance of the new hydrogen fuel cell. After employing the new hybrid catalyst, the catalytic effect did not diminish even after more than 200 hours of continuous operation.

The researchers noted that one of the reasons for the catalyst’s superior performance is the presence of three distinct types of active sites for catalysis, as opposed to the standard catalyst’s one active site. The new hybrid catalyst made of atomically scattered platinum, monoatomic iron, and nanoparticles of a platinum-iron alloy can accelerate catalysis and provide 3.7 times more catalytic effect than platinum catalysts. Theoretically, the stronger the catalytic performance, the greater the fuel cell output.

Professor Shao Minhua of the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at HKUST stated that hydrogen fuel cells must be used as green energy conversion devices in order to construct a carbon-neutral society. Faced with a grave climate problem, the use of renewable energy must be expanded.

Nedim Husomanovic

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