Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo


Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

Many research groups are in the race to make fuel cells that use little or no platinum–substituting platinum with a low-cost metal is the most common approach. Iron-based catalysts and platinum-palladium mixtures have both been tested, and MacFarlane has made porous electrodes coated with polymers. Others, such as Japan’s Daihatsu and researchers at Wuhan University in China, are making alkaline fuel cells that have membranes that conduct alkaline ions as opposed to acid ones. These designs work well with cheap catalysts like nickel and don’t require precious-metal catalysts. But all of these platinum alternatives have drawbacks: typically they give low current densities or their performance degrades after a few hundred hours.

ACAL Energy’s catalyst is based on a low-cost mix of molybdenum and vanadium, and the fuel cell’s polymer membrane is in direct contact with this liquid cathode. Around 80 percent of the platinum used in a conventional cell is found in the cathode, all of which is eliminated in the new design.

Creeth says the new catalyst is stable and can withstand the acidic conditions in the fuel cell. In company tests, the fuel cells performed well for more than 1,500 hours. The design has other advantages that decrease cost, he says. While conventional fuel-cell stacks need to be cooled with flowing liquid or air, and they also need a system to humidify the membrane, the liquid catalyst eliminates the need for both of these. “We believe ours is the best-performing platinum-free system,” Creeth says.

8 comments. Share your thoughts »

Credit: ACAL Energy

Tagged: Energy, Materials, energy, fuel cell, fuel cells

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives


Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me