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    Yes another ‘Breakthrough”…..the most overused word in the research community now days.

    The race between the backers of electric cars vs hydrogen powered is getting more interesting. At the moment the electric has the edge over cost but that may be all about to change. The University of Delaware’s Yushan Yan believes that fuel cells will eventually win out.

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    University of Delaware Distinguished Engineering Professor Yushan Yan, at the wheel of a fuel cell vehicle, is conducting research on the use of nickel as a catalyst in an alkaline electrolyte that promises to bring down the cost of hydrogen fuel cells. Credit: Jie Zheng/University of Delaware

    “Both fuel cells and batteries are clean technologies that have their own sets of challenges for commercialization,” says Yan, Distinguished Engineering Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

    “The key difference, however, is that the problems facing battery cars, such as short driving range and long battery charging time, are left with the customers. By contrast, fuel cell cars demand almost no change in customer experience because they can be charged in less than 5 minutes and be driven for more than 300 miles in one charge. And these challenges, such as hydrogen production and transportation, lie with the engineers.”

    Yan is prepared to address the biggest challenge fuel cells do face which is the cost. He and colleagues recently reported a breakthrough that promises to bring down the cost of hydrogen fuel cells by replacing expensive platinum catalysts with cheaper ones made from metals like nickel. The work is documented in a paper published Jan. 14 in Nature Communications.

    The researchers achieved the breakthrough by switching the operating environment from acidic to basic, and they found that nickel matched the activity of platinum. “This new hydroxide exchange membrane fuel cell can offer high performance at an unprecedented low cost,” Yan says.

    “Our real hope is that we can put hydroxide exchange membrane fuel cells into cars and make them truly affordable—maybe $23,000 for a Toyota Mirai. Once the cars themselves are more affordable, that will drive development of the infrastructure to support the hydrogen economy.”

    Explore further: Researcher discovers inexpensive catalyst to produce oxygen and hydrogen gas

    More information: “Nickel Supported on Nitrogen-doped Carbon Nanotubes as Hydrogen Oxidation Reaction Catalyst in Alkaline Electrolyte,” Nature Communications, 2016.

     

     

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