Indian scientists develop a platinum-based electrocatalyst that leads to low-cost, durable hydrogen fuel cells

Indian scientists have developed a platinum-based electrocatalyst locally for use in fuel cells through an effective mechanism.

The Electrocatalyst has characteristics comparable to those of a commercially available electrocatalyst and increases the lifetime of the fuel cell stack, the Ministry of Science and Technology said in a statement Tuesday (23 March).

According to the ministry, the launch of the Hydrogen Mission in August 2021 has opened up a huge path for local research and development in the area of ​​hydrogen fuel cells.

Fuel cells are energy conversion devices that produce DC electricity with hydrogen as a byproduct of water.

While this technology has many merits in green energy production, the main drawback is the large cost incurred from importing components to manufacture the device.

In particular, the import of platinum-based electrocatalysts, due to the lack of suitable local technologies for their manufacture, plays an important role in increasing durability and reducing fuel cell costs.

Scientists from the International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI), the autonomous R&D centre of the Department of Science and Technology of the central government, have synthesised a platinum-based electrocatalyst using an efficient method, the ministry said.

The key step in the synthesis of carbon is to enhance carbon for the platinum interaction known as Strong Metal Substrate Interaction (SMSI), thereby increasing the durability of the electrocatalyst.

This electrocatalyst has characteristics comparable to commercially available electrocatalysts in terms of performance and superior corrosion resistance and durability in fuel cells, the ministry said.

It showed a loss of less than 20 percent, which is below the acceptable limits of loss in the active surface area of ​​the catalyst (40 percent).  That said, it will increase the lifetime of the fuel cell stock performance.

This work has been published in the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy and has been patented.

Laws Engineers and Consultants Pvt.  Limited (LECPL), a Mumbai-based company engaged in design and construction units for the chemical, pharmaceutical and related industries, is in the process of acquiring ARCI knowledge to manufacture this electrocatalyst, the ministry said.

According to ARCI Director (Additional Charge) Dr Tata Narasinga Rao, this commercialization of the local electrocatalyst will enable the adoption of green hydrogen technology in India.

Dr R Gopalan, Regional Director, ARCI-Chennai, said, “Local catalysts can reduce our dependence on imported electrocatalysts and pave the way for a self-reliant India.”

Dr Raman Vedarajan, one of the technology researchers at ARCI-Chennai’s Fuel Cell Technology Centre, thinks this development is essential for ensuring durable polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell stacks in India.

Santosh Tawari, Director, LECPL, said, “We are proud to be the industrial partner of ARCI for the manufacture of Fuel Cell Components.  We share the common goals of hydrogen-based clean energy and the “Make in India” initiative has been successful in this field.

“The commercialization of ARCI knowledge is expected to begin in the next quarter. Other applications for platinum-based electrocatalysts are also being explored,” Tawari added.

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