Chalmers University of Technology

Understanding the properties of novel electrocatalysts made from earth-abundant elements for fuel cells and electrolysers

  • Circularity and Replacement
  • Energy
  • Properties
  • Synthesis & Processing
Industrial project

Research question

Affordable and sustainable materials are essential for utilizing hydrogen as a clean energy source. Hydrogen fuel cells and water electrolysis technologies allow us to produce energy without emissions or reliance on fossil fuels. When hydrogen fuel cells generate electricity, the only byproduct is water. Likewise, electrolysis converts electrical energy into hydrogen, offering a fossil-free fuel source for fuel cells. However, a significant challenge lies in the conventional catalysts used for these processes, as they rely on precious and scarce materials like platinum (Pt) and iridium (Ir). Sourcing these elements is challenging, mainly because they are primarily mined in South Africa and Russia, making them costly and potentially unsustainable. In this project, we develop electrocatalysts for electrolyzer and fuel cell technologies based on earth-abundant elements, to limit the use of precious metals (PGMs). Through modifications of the chemical composition of the electrode material such as changing the active site, substituting the metal ion type, or using a combination of different metal ions (bi-metal approach), we will fine-tune the catalyst’s performance to achieve high efficiency in these reactions.

Sustainability aspects

The project aims to develop a cost-effective, precious metal-free, and sustainable electrocatalyst for electrolysers and fuel cells, with the potential to accelerate the transition to renewable energy sources and increase the adoption of fuel cells in applications like trucks and buses. Additionally, it can improve energy security and reduce emissions in urban areas, addressing United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 1, 3, 7, and 8. The project uses abundant transition metals instead of rare and expensive precious metals, reducing costs and dependence on geopolitically unstable regions. This approach aligns with SDGs 1, 3, 10, 11, and 12 by enhancing resource security and minimizing environmental impact in the production and recycling of materials.

researcher photo

Chalmers University of Technology

Alexander Giovannitti


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