Computational Method Sheds Light on Fuel Cell Chemistry

September
2016

Fuel cells hold great promise for powering vehicles without emitting greenhouse gases. However, fuel cell vehicles have not yet lived up to their potential because of several challenges, including their high cost. One component of fuel cells, the platinum catalyst, is particularly expensive. And although scientists around the globe continue to search for a less-expensive alternative, they have not found a catalyst with comparable performance.

A better understanding of the fundamental mechanism occurring within a fuel cell could change this.

Chemical engineers at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison have applied computational methods to better understand the reaction chemistry occurring within a direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) — a first step, they say, to the development of a less-expensive catalyst.

Fuel cells convert chemical energy into electricity via the reaction of hydrogen ions with oxygen. In general, a fuel cell consists of an anode and a cathode separated by...

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