The standard catalyst of choice for fuel cells right now is platinum, which is the main reason that hydrogen autos remain expensive to build. With the price of platinum today at over $1,200 per ounce and rising, (and the world supply of the metal in question) many fuel cell makers are looking to alternatives to platinum in order to drive down the price of the proton exchange membranes (PEMs).
Oxford University Chemistry Professor, Fraser Armstrong is using enzymes (also known as hydrogenases) as a catalyst in his laboratory fuel cell. Granted, the professor’s fuel cell at this time is only capable of powering a wristwatch, but this is a step in the right direction towards less expensive fuel cells that will need to be mass produced one day in order to support hydrogen-powered transportation.
For nations who are addicted to oil and see hydrogen as the alternative fuel of the future, it makes no sense to trade one addiction for another. Trading an oil addiction for a platinum addiction needs to be nipped in the bud, and with cutting-edge research such as this, fuel cells of the future will be powerful, efficient and affordable for producing the most abundant element in the universe, hydrogen.