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'Goldilocks' thinking can help cut the cost of fuel cells in electric vehicles

Electric vehicles running on fuel cells tout zero emissions and higher efficiency, but expensive platinum is holding them back from entering a larger market. A new method increases fuel cell electrode activity at least tenfold, using 90 percent less metal.

A new method borrows some thinking from "Goldilocks", just the right amount, for evaluating how much metal would be required for fuel cell electrodes. The technique uses the forces on a metal's surface to identify the ideal electrode thickness.

Fuel cells convert hydrogen, combined with some oxygen, into electricity through a so-called oxygen-reduction reaction that an electro-catalyst starts. Finding exactly the right thickness stresses the surface of the electro-catalyst and enhances how well it performs this reaction.


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