Russian chemists found a replacement for platinum in fuel cells

Chemists from the Novosibirsk state University (NSU), and Institute of inorganic chemistry SB RAS got a solid solution of cobalt and iridium — new compound that can serve as a catalyst in various fuel cells, replacing expensive platinum.

The University explained that fuel cells are highly efficient (50%) and unlimited time of usage with a continuous supply of fuel and oxidizer. However, for the proceeding of the reactions at the electrodes required a catalyst. Broad dissemination as a catalyst got platinum, but it has disadvantages, and the cost of the electrodes with platinum exceeds 70% of the entire fuel cell.

Iridium on average two times cheaper than platinum. By adding into solution of base metal of cobalt, the cost of the catalyst is further reduced. In addition, manifests a synergistic effect — the efficiency of the catalyst increases due to merging of separate parts into a single system. Cobalt-iridium alloy works the same as platinum, and we have the same efficiency but with lower cost and longer service life, — explained the employee of laboratory of synthesis and physico-chemical studies of new composite catalysts NSU Eugene Filatov.

As said the scientist, usually a solid solution of metals is obtained by homogenization of chips until a homogeneous mass with high temperatures, with further grinding. The operation is repeated as many times as necessary until the completion of the mutual diffusion of metal atoms. However, this method is time consuming and IIC SB RAS use thermolysis of double complex salts of metals that allows to speed up the process from months to a few hours.