Engineering researchers from Tufts University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Harvard University have demonstrated the low-temperature efficacy of an atomically dispersed platinum catalyst, which could be suitable for on-board hydrogen production in fuel-cell-powered vehicles of the future.
An alternative to copper, which under certain conditions can ignite spontaneously, the platinum-based catalyst is highly active and stable. The researchers' understanding of the structure and function of the new catalyst could help manufacturers design highly effectivebut less costlycatalysts on standard, inexpensive support metal oxides.
Led by Maria Flytzani-Stephanopoulos, a Tufts University School of Engineering professor of chemical and biological engineering, and Manos Mavrikakis, a UW-Madison professor of chemical and biological engineering, the research team published its findings in the Sept. 24, 2010, issue of the journal Science.
Only small amounts of hydrogen occur naturally on Earthyet, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, the country's demand for hydrogen is about 9 million tons per year.
Manufacturers produce about 95 percent of this hydrogen through steam reforming of natural gas, a catalytic process in which steam reacts with methane to yield carbon monoxide and hydrogen. This mixture is known as synthesis gas, or syngas, and is an intermediate in production processes for synthetic fuels, ammonia and methanol, among other compounds.
Another application for hydrogen is fuel for the hydrogen economy, an effort that aims to exploit high-energy-density hydrogen as a cleaner source of energy, particularly for low-temperature fuel-cell-powered devices, including vehicles.
Fuel cells use electrochemical processes to convert hydrogen and oxygen into water, producing direct current that powers a motor. Fuel cell vehicles require highly purified hydrogen, which is produced through a wate
|Contact: Maria Flytzani-Stephanopoulos|
University of Wisconsin-Madison