Two weeks ago I talked about platinum in catalytic convertors being recycled for fuel cells. What spurred the article was the recent rise in catalytic convertor thefts in order to resell this precious metal. Last week, I mentioned that MIT was developing a new fuel cell using cheaper metals to replace platinum.
Today, it appears that Australian researchers have yet again upped the bar by replacing platinum altogether with plastic in order to create yet cheaper fuel cells. The new plastic polymer called poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) or is based upon nanotechnology and is meant to replace a $4,000 platinum fuel cell membrane with one costing only hundreds of dollars.
At Monash University in Melbourne, Professor Maria Forsythe from the Australian Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science has said that not only is the new PEDOT plastic fuel cell cathode cheaper than its platinum counterpart but its more stable as well since its not as affected by autobon monoxide poisoning. This is not totally new in the fuel cell field however, since DuPont has been working on its Nafion polymer membrane for a little while now.
But, what this does is to prove that platinum may not be the catalyst of the future in regard to fuel cells. Through advances in nanotechnology, conductive plastics may just be the cheap and durable alternative that will spur the demand for low cost hydrogen fuel cells going forward.