Brown University chemist Shouheng Sun and his students have developed a new material— a graphene sheet covered by cobalt and cobalt-oxide nanoparticles— that can catalyze the oxygen reduction reaction nearly as well as platinum does and is substantially more durable.
The new material “has the best reduction performance of any nonplatinum catalyst,” says Shaojun Guo, postdoctoral researcher in Sun’s laboratory and lead author of a paper published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition.
This new graphene-cobalt material is the most promising candidate yet, the researchers say. It is the first catalyst not made from a precious metal that comes close to matching platinum’s properties.
Sun and his team are optimistic that with more study their material could one day be a suitable replacement for platinum catalysts. “Right now, it’s comparable to platinum in an alkaline medium,” Sun says, “but it’s not ready for use yet. We still need to do more tests.”
Ultimately, Sun says, finding a suitable nonplatinum catalyst is the key to getting fuel cells out of the laboratory phase and into production as power sources for cars and other devices.
- Can cobalt nanoparticles replace platinum in fuel cells? (phys.org)
- Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles: a Possibility? (playtheobjective.wordpress.com)
- Superior fuel cell material developed (sciencedaily.com)