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The University of Bern develops longer lasting fuel cells for hydrogen vehicles

Tuesday 25 August 2020

© Gustav Sievers

An international research team led by the University of Bern has succeeded in developing a new process that is industrially applicable and can be used to further optimize fuel cell powered vehicles without CO₂ emissions.

Fuel cells are gaining in importance as an alternative to battery-operated electromobility in heavy traffic, especially since hydrogen is a CO₂-neutral energy carrier if it is obtained from renewable sources. For efficient operation, fuel cells need an electrocatalyst that improves the electrochemical reaction in which electricity is generated.

An international team from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry (DCB) at the University of Bern has now succeeded in using a special process to produce an electrocatalyst without a carbon carrier, which, unlike existing catalysts, consists of a thin metal network and is therefore more durable. The study is an international collaboration between the DCB and, among others, the University of Copenhagen and the Leibniz Institute for Plasma Science and Technology, which also used the Swiss Light Source (SLS) infrastructure at the Paul Scherrer Institute.

Industrially applicable technology

“This technology is industrially scalable and can therefore also be used for larger production volumes, for example in the automotive industry," says Matthias Arenz, team leader on the project at the DCB in Bern. This process allows the hydrogen fuel cell to be further optimized for use in road traffic. "Our findings are consequently of importance for the further development of sustainable energy use, especially in view of the current developments in the mobility sector for heavy goods vehicles."

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