New catalyst for fuel cells

(KTSF by Jessie Liang)

Berkeley, CA - UC Berkeley associate professor of chemistry Christopher Chang and his research team  have created  a new catalyst MoS2 (molybdenum and sulfur) that not only improves the efficiency of fuel cells but also  reduces carbon emission and its cost.


Post-doctoral fellow Yujie Sun says, “You can see here in the reactor that the new catalyst is generating hydrogen from water.” Sun adds if there’s no catalyst in the water, it would slow the production of hydrogen from water. In addition, it needs high electric voltage. But when you add this catalyst in the water, it could speed up chemical reactions.

Chang also addresses, “When you burn that hydrogen as a fuel, then the only byproduct is water, so you don’t generate or use any CO2 in the process of making this type of fuel.”

Sun explains that catalysts are typical metals and widely used in the synthesis of chemicals and drugs. In addition, platinum is one of popular catalysts often used in the automobile industry. However, it’s not only less effective but also expensive. “If we use molybdenum, the cost is only one seventieth of platinum.” Sun said.

The development of the catalyst MoS2 could be a sustainable source of clean energy and have a profound impact on fuel cells. Chang says, “Because the source is not natural gas or any sort of carbon source but is water, in general practical term, this would be more efficient for the long term.”

Chang and other scientists hope to use the resource that we have to make fuels. There is plenty of molybdenum on the earth. It could help create more efficient catalysts such as MoS2. It’s good for the environment as well as the economy.

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