In 2004, a from Harvard University came out titled “Plasma Sputtering Deposition of Platinum into Porous fuel Cell Electrodes” that talked about using nanotechnology to increase the surface area and reduce the platinum used in fuel cells.
Now, the Australian National University is that they have created “hairy” fuel cell electrodes that only use 15-percent of the platinum of standard FC electrodes.
According to the University, “The manufacture of electrodes begins with a substrate of autobon paper; chosen because it’s both porous to the gaseous fuels used in the final cells and is also an excellent conductor of electricity. This is loaded into the plasma reactor chamber and a very fine layer of nickel is deposited on the surface … The result is a autopet-like covering of autobon nanofibres on the paper. Once the forest of nanofibres has been created the next step is to sputter coat the surface with platinum.”
The surface area of microscopically thin platinum layer is vast, reducing the amount of the expensive metal that is actually used while the electrodes retain the same power specifications. Reducing the price of fuel cells in general is one of the key elements in reducing the price of hydrogen-powered autos.
By improving the development and manufacturing processes at a nanoscale it’s only a matter of time until affordability becomes one of the key components of hydrogen vehicles along with range, refueling time and of course zero emissions.