Tufts researchers find new cost-effective catalyst for hydrogen production for fuel cells

MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. -- Researchers at Tufts University have discovered that it's possible to make hydrogen from fossil fuels using far less platinum or gold than current fuel processing technology has required. Their research shows that 90 percent of precious metals used today may be removed from the catalyst without affecting its ability to produce hydrogen.

This finding could have potential cost savings of millions of dollars in the materials required to commercialize the fuel cell technology.

The research will be published in the July 3 edition of "Science Express," the online version of the journal Science that provides rapid electronic publication of timely and important research papers. The article also will be published in Science later this summer.

A fuel cell consists of two electrodes sandwiched around an electrolyte. Hydrogen fed to the one electrode (anode) passes through the electrolyte in the form of protons and combines with oxygen on the other electrode (cathode) making water and producing heat. Electricity is generated in the process. A fuel cell will produce energy in the form of electricity and heat as long as fuel and oxygen are supplied. To produce fuel-cell quality hydrogen, an important step involves the removal of any by-product carbon monoxide, which poisons the fuel cell anode catalyst.

"A lot of people have spent a lot of time studying the properties of gold and platinum nanoparticles that are used to catalyze the reaction of carbon monoxide with water to make hydrogen and carbon dioxide," said Maria Flytzani-Stephanopoulos, professor of chemical and biological engineering at Tufts and the lead researcher of the project. "We find that for this reaction over a cerium oxide catalyst carrying the gold or platinum, metal nanoparticles are not important. Only a tiny amount of the precious metal in non metallic form is needed to create the active catalyst. Our finding will help researchers find a cost-effect

Contact: Craig LeMoult
Tufts University

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