Methanol fuel cell efficiency boosted

New materials that enable the manufacture of cheaper and more efficient methanol fuel cells have been developed by a researcher from the University of the Basque Country.

According to Jose Barranco, pictured, for the fuel cell to generate electricity, electro oxidation has to take place and this requires a catalyst. In the case of methanol fuel cells, the basic accelerator is platinum, which is expensive. Dr Barranco has devised a metal alloy based catalyst in which the amount of platinum is reduced significantly. His research focused on a fundamental problem: electro oxidation of methanol produces carbon monoxide, which adheres to the metal and inhibits its catalysing capacity. As part of his research, Dr Barranco made alloys that enabled the reduction of the proportion of platinum to 1%. These alloys, composed of elements such as nickel, niobium, antimony or ruthenium, convert CO into CO2 efficiently. Fuel cell efficiency is claimed to be increased by 50% over platinum based approaches.