New Material Can Give Fuel Cell Technology An Edge Over Li-Ion Batteries

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Researchers from the University of Illinois Chicago, the University of Maryland, and various other institutes have jointly developed a material that could improve the fuel cell technology and give a competitive edge over the battery system most prominently used in today’s non-internal combustion vehicles. The findings from the research are published in the science journal Nature Energy.

Depletion of fossil fuel and pollution caused due to IC engined vehicles is propelling research toward alternative technologies to power vehicles. Battery electric vehicles (BEV) commonly use Li-based cells which require rare earth metals in their construction. Furthermore, they can typically achieve a range of 100-300 miles per charge. Fuel cell technology can achieve a greater range compared to existing BEVs. Fuel cell-based cars can achieve a mileage of 400miles in a single charge and can charge in a matter of a few minutes, whereas BEVs have a shorter range and requires a few hours to charge. To generate energy the fuel cell technology relies on catalyst-driven reaction, but the cathodes used for powering a fuel cell are made up of extremely expensive materials such as platinum while the cheaper metals degrade quickly to be considered a practical alternative.

But this research can prove to be a game-changer. The new additive material developed by engineers can increase the durability of an inexpensive fuel cell catalyst material such as iron-nitrogen-carbon. The additive material shields the fuel cell system from unstable particles like atoms, molecules, and other corrosive byproducts.

“Fuel cells are an attractive alternative to batteries because of their higher driving range, fast recharging capabilities, lighter weight, and smaller volume, provided that we can find more economical ways to separate and store hydrogen,” said Reza Shahbazian-Yassar, professor at the UIC College of Engineering. “In this paper, we report on an approach that gets us much closer to making fuel cell-powered vehicles and other fuel cell technologies a reality.”

The full paper can be accessed here,


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