Brookhaven Lab Develops New Fuel Cell Catalysts

April 28, 2002 by Jeff Shepard

Scientists at the US Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have developed a new method of creating catalysts that reduces the amount of platinum present in the catalyst. In the new method, platinum atoms are deposited on the surface of tiny ruthenium crystalline particles. The new development could allow the production of cheaper and more efficient fuel cells.

To maximize the chemical reactions inside the fuel cell, both electrodes contain a catalyst, or electrocatalyst. One of the most efficient electrocatalysts is made of an alloy of platinum and ruthenium, but its efficiency is reduced by carbon monoxide deposits formed on the platinum as a by-product of the hydrogen-oxygen reaction. The new method developed by the Brookhaven team reduces the amount of platinum present in the catalyst, thus limiting carbon monoxide accumulation and improving fuel cell performance.